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Full text of "The history of the condition of women in various ages and nations"

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THE 



HISTORY 

OF THE 

CONDITION OF WOMEN, 

IN VARIOUS AGES AND NATIONS. 

BY 

MRS. D. L. CHILD. 

AUTHOR OF "MOTHER'S BOOK," " FRUGAL HOUSEWIFE," ETC, 



" In youth women are our idols, at a riper age our companions, in old age our nurses, and 
in all ages our friends." Lord Bacon. 



VOL. II. 

COMPRISING THE WOMEN OF EUROPE, AMERICA, AND 
SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 



THIRD EDITION. 

BOSTON: 

OTIS, BROADERS & CO 

1340 



Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1835, by 

JOHN ALLEN & CO. 
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts* 



boston : 

STEREOTYPED BY SHEPARD, OLIVER AND CO, 



No. 3 Water Street. 



CONTENTS TO VOL. II 



Amb'&ones . . . 
Americans, South 
Americans, North. 
Anne's reign 
Athenians . . . 
Austrians . . . 



PAGE. 

i 82 
246 

, 255 

143 

9 

166 



Betrothal, various mo- 



dern forms of 
Bona Dea . . 
Blue stocking 
Bravery, female 
Britons, ancient 



. . 193 

. 54 

. . 145 

121, 209 

. 81 



Celibacy venerated 116 
Charles II., time of 140 
Chivalry .... 90 
Christianity introduc- 
ed at Rome . . 75 
Cimbri . . , . 82 
Convents . . 125, 249 
Courts of Love . .111 
Cromwell, time of 136, 139 
Crusades .... 118 



Danes 
Dutch 



174 
171 



PAGE. 

English . . . . 147 

Falconry . . . . 114 

Feudal times ... 87 

Flitch of bacon . . 115 

Franks 77 

Gauls 80 

Germans, ancient . 79 

Germans, modern . 165 

Goths 80 

Greeks, ancient . . 1 

Greeks, modern , 176 

Greenland .... 242 

Hair . . 59, 138, 188 
Hallow E'en. . . 133 

Iceland 175 

Indians of North and 
South America 225,291 

Irish 149 

Italians 161 

Knights, duties of . 92 

Lacedaemonians . . 30 
Laws, modern . . 199 



VI 



CONTENTS 



PAGE. 

Learned women 127,208 
Liburnians . . . 167 

Marriage, modern 

forms of ... 189 

Marriage deemed un- 
holy . . . 76,116 

Middle ages ... 86 

Military spirit in wo- 
men . . . 121,209 

Morlachians . . .168 

Northern nations that 

conquered Rome . 77 
Nun initiated . . 251 

Offices held by women 146 

Panegyrics on women 140 
Peasantry of Europe 

180, 187 
Polanders . . . .162 
Portuguese . . . 159 
Pythia 26 

Quaderoons . . . 263 
Queens .... 206 

Romans .... 35 
Russians • • . .172 



Russian settlements 
Saint Dunstan's Well 
Salique law . . 
Satires on women 
Scandinavians . 
Scotch . . . 
Sibyl of Cumse 
Sibyl, Danish 
Slave countries . 
South Sea islands 
Spain .... 
Spartans . . 
Swedes . . 
Swiss . . . 



Tournaments 
Troubadours . 
Tricks, trying 
Tyrolese . . 

United States 
Valentine's day 
Vestals . . 
Visigoths . . 



FAGS. 

246 
116 
151 
141 

77 
150 

55 

83 
212 
272 
157 

30 
174 
169 

100 
105 
133 
168 

255 

134 

52 

77 



Walachians . . . 167 
Widows 25, 51, 138, 205 
Winnisberg, women of 98 
Witches . . . 131,258 



HISTORY OF WOMEN. 




Penelope at her loom. 



EUROPE 



Plutarch speaks with disapprobation of the Per- 
sian manner of treating women ; yet the Greeks 
themselves kept them under very strict discipline. 
They had distinct apartments, in the highest and 
most retired part of the house, and among the 
wealthier classes these rooms were often kept locked 
and guarded. Women belonging to the royal fami- 



2 GRECIAN WOMEN. 

lies were not even allowed to go from one part of the 
house to the other without permission. When An- 
tigone, in Euripides, obtains her mother's permission 
to go on the house-top to view the Argian army, her 
aged guardian insists upon first searching the pas- 
sage, lest the profane eyes of a citizen should disho- 
nor her by a glance. 

Young girls were more rigorously secluded than 
married women ; yet it was considered highly inde- 
corous for the latter to be seen beyond the door-step, 
until they were old enough to assume the character 
of matrons. Menander says : 

" You go beyond the married woman's bounds, 
And stand before the hall, which is not fit ; 
The laws do not permit a free-born bride 
Farther than to the outer door to go." 

Maidens were rarely allowed to appear in the pre- 
sence of men ; and never without veils. This cover- 
ing was probably made of transparent stuff; for Iphi- 
genia speaks of seeing her brother through " the 
veil's fine texture." 

Eustathius says, " Women should keep within 
doors, and there talk." Thucydides declared that 
" she was the best woman of whom the least was 
said, either of good or harm ;" according to the 
Greek proverb it was considered extremely disho- 
norable to be governed by a female ; and Plato re- 
joiced that he was not born a woman. 

In order to prevent assignations, Solon enacted 
that no wife, or matron, should go from home with 
more than three garments, or a basket longer than 



GRECIAN WOMEN. 6 

one cubit, or more food than could be purchased for 
an obolus ;* or travel in the night-time without a 
lighted torch carried before her chariot. Lest pride 
should seek to exhibit itself in a pompous retinue, he 
ordered that no woman should appear attended by 
more than one servant, except when she was drunk ! 
On the death of a husband, the oldest son became 
the guardian of his mother. A woman was incapa- 
ble of appearing in court without her guardian ; 
therefore the words of the proclamation always 
were, " We cite and her guardian." No pro- 
perty could be disposed of, either by will or other- 
wise, without the consent of guardians. Female 
captives taken in war were not usually treated with 
any degree of respect or tenderness : thus we find 
Hecuba complaining that she was chained, like a 
dog, at the gate of Agamemnon. Alexander the 
Great formed an honorable exception to this rule, 
and in his treatment of the royal Persian prisoners 
imitated the noble example of Cyrus. 

Women were not allowed to attend the Olympic 
games ; but this prohibition could not have existed 
at all periods ; for we are told that Cynisca, daugh- 
ter of Archidamus, king of Sparta, was the first wo- 
man who won the prize in the chariot-race at Olym- 
pia. Perhaps the Spartan women alone partook of 
these masculine diversions ; those of more feminine 
habits would probably perceive the propriety of not 
attending games, where the combatants wrestled 

* A small coin, about the value of a penny. 



4 GRECIAN WOMEN. 

without clothing. In commemoration of her victo- 
ry, Cynisca sent a chariot and four brazen horses, to 
be dedicated to Olympian Jupiter. 

In the earliest ages, Greek women had a right to 
vote in the public assemblies ; but this privilege was 
taken away from them. They were never allowed 
to be present at banquets, and it is not supposed that 
they ever ate in the same apartment with the men. 

The restraint of female influence being thus re- 
moved, it may be presumed that the outward forms 
of decency were less scrupulously observed than 
they would have been under a different system. A 
fine of one thousand drachmas was imposed upon 
every woman who appeared in public without cloth- 
ing ; and the necessity of making such a law does 
not speak well for purity of manners. 

That women were not always entirely passive and 
subservient, appears by the example of Xantippe, so 
famous for her household eloquence ; and by the dis- 
pute between Agamemnon and his wife, concerning > 
his wish that she should absent herself from the 
wedding of her daughter Iphigenia : 

Agamemnon. " Without more reasonings, my demands obey I 
Clytemnestra. " By Juno, that o'er Argos bears the sway, 

" Sooner would wretched Clytemnestra bleed, 

" Than give consent to so unjust a deed. 

" Affairs abroad better thy tot become ; 

" 'Tis fit that I should manage things at home.' , 

Themistocles used to say, " My little boy rules 
Athens ; for he governs his mother, and his mother 
governs me." 

The women of Lemnos, finding themselves slighted 



GRECIAN WOMEN. 5 

for the sake of certain Thracian captives, whose 
charms conquered their conquerors, resolved upon 
indiscriminate revenge. They unanimously agreed 
to put all their male relations to death ; and this 
barbarous plan was carried into execution, with the 
solitary exception of Hypsipyle, the queen, who 
spared the life of her father. In consequence of this, 
the women conspired against her, and soon after 
drove her from the kingdom. 

The most common employments of Grecian wo- 
men were spinning, weaving, embroidery, making 
garments, and attending to household avocations. 
Their embroidery often represented battle-scenes 
and historical events, which must have required a 
great deal of time and patience. During the early 
ages, there seems to have been no difference whatever 
between the occupations of princesses and women of 
common rank. Before marriage, Penelope tended 
her father's flocks on the mountains of Arcadia ; and 
when she was queen of Ithaca, her son bids her at- 
tend to the spindle and the loom, and leave the af- 
fairs of the palace to his direction. During the ab- 
sence of her husband, she was troubled with nume- 
rous powerful suitors, whose enmity was greatly to 
be feared in those turbulent times. She promised to 
choose one from among them, when she had finished 
weaving a certain web ; but she continually baffled 
them, by unravelling in the night what she had 
woven in the day : hence " Penelope's web" became 
a proverbial expression for works that were never 
likely to be finished. We are told that Nausicaa, 



6 GRECIAN WOMEN, 

daughter of king Alcinous, who met Ulysses ship- 
wrecked on her father's coast, went down to the 
shore, accompanied by her maidens, to wash clothes ; 
and princess as she was, she carried her dinner with 
her. 

Women grinding corn, after the manner of the Is- 
raelites, are alluded to by old Greek authors ; and 
that they were in the habit of spinning with a distaff 
as they walked, is to be inferred from the fact that it 
was considered a bad omen to meet a woman work- 
ing at her spindle. 

As luxury increased, the lines of demarkation be- 
tween different ranks no doubt became more obvi- 
ous, and laborious occupations were relinquished 
by the wealthy. It is likewise probable that re- 
straints became less and less rigid. Women, in 
later times, certainly joined the men in entertain- 
ments at Aspasia's house, and the remains of an 
ancient picture leads to the conjecture that at some 
period they attended the theatres. It is recorded 
that certain women disguised themselves in male 
attire, and went to Academus to listen to the phi- 
losophy of Plato ; and when this desire for know- 
ledge began to prevail, it could not be long before it 
manifested itself in casting off the fetters prescribed 
by custom. Individuals there were, as there ever 
will be, of both sexes, who were in advance of the 
people among whom they lived. Beside the far- 
famed Sappho and Aspasia, there was Corinna, the 
Theban poetess, who is said to have five times car- 
ried the prize from Pindar; and there was Arete, 



&£ EC I Aft WOMEN, 7 

daughter of Aristippus, who taught philosophy aire! 
the sciences to her son : from this circumstance the 
young man was called Metrodidactos, i. e. Taught* 
by-his-mother. 

Increasing luxury evidently did not produce uni- 
versal corruption; for the wife of Phocion was a 
model of prudence, simplicity, and domestic virtue. 
When one of the actors, who was to represent a 
queen, demanded a more pompous retinue, Melan- 
thius, who was at the charge of the exhibition, said : 
" Phocion's wife appears in public with a single 
maid-servant ; and dost thou come here to show thy 
pride, and corrupt our women ?" The audience re- 
ceived this remark with a thunder of applause. This 
same modest matron, when a lady exhibited many 
jewels in her presence, replied : " Phocion is my 
greatest ornament, who is now called for the twenti- 
eth time to command the armies of Athens." Plu- 
tarch, who lived as late as the time of Trajan, bears 
testimony that his wife Timoxena was far above the 
frivolity and affectation, which characterized many 
of her sex ; that she cared little for dress or parade ; 
and was chiefly desirous to perform all the duties? 
and observe all the proprieties of life. 

Of the amusements of the Grecian women we 
know little. Eeligious festivals no doubt constituted 
a large portion of their recreations. Many dances 
were used on these occasions ; among which was the 
Caryatides, a Spartan dance, in honor of Diana. 
Theseus, who invented a circular dance called the 
Crane, is said to have been the first who introduced 



8 GRECIAN WOMEN. 

the custom of men and women dancing together. 
Various musical instruments were in use, such as 
the harp and the cythara, and women doubtless 
played upon these, as well as joined in the songs 
appropriated to various festivals. Female characters 
at the theatre were performed entirely by men in 
disguise. 

Ladies of rank were at all periods accompanied 
by attendants ; and among them was generally some 
old nurse, or matron, continually about their persons. 
Two such are described as waiting upon Penelope, 
beside a numerous band of maidens, whom she guided 
in the labors of the distaff and the loom. 

The Grecian dress consisted of sandals for the feet, 
and an ample flowing robe, without sleeves, fastened 
at the waist by a girdle. The wealthy wore purple, 
and other rich colors ; the common class usually wore 
white, for the economy of having it dyed when it 
became soiled. Jewels, expensive embroidery, and 
delicious perfumes, were used in great profusion by 
those who could afford them. It is supposed that 
women stained their eyebrows black, and stained the 
tips of their fingers rose-color, after the manner of the 
East. They took great pains to keep their teeth in 
perfection, and some affirm that they painted their 
lips with vermillion. 

According to Socrates, the most costly female 
wardrobe in his time might be valued at about fifty 
minse, or one hundred and sixty pounds, nine shil- 
lings, and two pence. 

Until the time of Cecrops, the Grecians lived 



GRECIAN W011N. 9 

without the institution of marriage ; but his laws on 
that subject, being found conducive to the public 
good, soon became generally observed. He expressly 
forbade polygamy ; but at certain periods, when 
great numbers of men had been slain in battle, tem- 
porary laws were passed allowing men to take more 
than one wife. Euripides is said to have imbibed a 
dislike to the whole sex by having two wives at 
once, who made his house a perpetual scene of dis- 
sension. It was allowable for a man to marry his 
sister by the father's side, but not by the mother's. 
Cimon married his sister Elpinice, because his fa- 
ther's misfortunes had left him too poor to provide a 
suitable match for her ; but afterward, when Callias, 
a rich Athenian, became in love with Elpinice, and 
offered to pay all her father's fines, if she would con- 
sent to be his wife, Cimon divorced her, and gave her 
to him. 

Parents negotiated matches for their children ; and 
neither young men nor maidens presumed to marry 
without the consent of both father and mother. 

In Athens, heiresses were compelled by law to 
marry their nearest kinsmen, in order to preserve the 
fortune in the family ; but if he chanced to be old 
and superannuated, a younger relative was admitted 
into the household, and in all respects considered the 
lady's husband, except in having a legal claim to her 
inheritance. 

When a female orphan was left without adequate 
support, the nearest relative was obliged to marry 
her, or settle a portion upon her according to his 



10 GRECIAN WOMEN, 

Wealth and rank. "When the connections were nu- 
merous, they often combined together to contribute 
the required sum. 

Any foreigner who married an Athenian woman 
was liable to be sold, together with his estate, and a 
third part given to the accuser. Any foreign woman, 
who married a citizen of Athens, was liable to be 
sold for a slave, and the man was likewise fined a 
thousand drachmas. These laws fell into disuse ; 
but were revived by Pericles for a short period, dur- 
ing which five thousand Athenian citizens were sold 
on account of foreign alliances. 

It was common for Grecian lovers to deck the 
doors of their beloved with garlands, and pour liba- 
tions of wine near the threshold, because this was the 
manner in which Cupid was worshipped at his tem- 
ple. They likewise inscribed her name on trees, on 
the walls of their houses, and on the books they used. 
These inscriptions were generally accompanied by 
some flattering epithet. In allusion to this custom, 
one of the characters in Euripides says he never 
should have a good opinion of women, though all the 
pines in mount Ida were filled with their names. 
When a person's garland was untied, it was taken 
as a sign of his being in love ; and when women 
were seen weaving wreaths, they were accused of 
being love-sick. 

Various magical arts and spells were in use to dis- 
cover the state of each other's affections. The Thes- 
salian women were famous for their skill in these 
matters ; and the Grecian maidens were in the habit 



GRECIAN WOMEN. 11 

of applying to them for assistance ; thus one in The- 
ocritus says : 

" To Agrio too I made the same demand, 
A cunning woman she, I crossed her hand ; 
She turned the sieve and shears, and told me true, 
That I should love, but not be loved by you." 

Many charms and philtres were likewise in use to 
procure affection, when their love was unsuccessful. 
These charms were sometimes compounded with 
blood of doves, the bones of snakes and toads, 
screech-owl's feathers, bands of wool twisted upon a 
wheel, and if possible from the neck of one who had 
hanged himself. Sometimes pills, roots, and power- 
ful herbs, were the chosen ingredients ; and instances 
occurred wherein the unfortunate victims of supersti- 
tion lost their reason by the administration of these 
dangerous philtres. Images of wax were sometimes 
made and placed before the fire to melt, while cer- 
tain spells were pronounced ; this was done from the 
idea that there was some mysterious sympathy be- 
tween the wax and the heart of the beloved object. 
Sometimes one who was forsaken and indignant 
made an image of clay and placed it beside the wax, 
that while one melted the other might harden ; they 
believed that the heart of the rejected thus became 
stern and unrelenting, while the faithless lover was 
softened by affection. Other enchantments, too va- 
rious to mention, were used by those who wished to 
effect similar purposes. 

Particular regard was paid to lucky seasons and 
omens for the wedding day. The full of the moon 



12 GRECIAN WOMEN. 

was considered a favorable time, and the conjunction 
of the sun and moon was peculiarly auspicious. The 
sixteenth day of the month was regarded as more 
unlucky tha'n any other. It was supposed that trees 
planted on that day would wither and die, and that 
girls who were either born or married at such a date 
were destined to misery ; but for a boy it was consi- 
dered a lucky augury to be born on the sixteenth. 

Before marriage, the Grecian maidens offered bas- 
kets of fruit to Diana, and many other ceremonies 
were performed in her temple. On account of her 
own aversion to wedlock, it was deemed peculiarly 
desirable to appease her indignation, and propitiate 
her favor. Sacrifices were likewise offered to Juno, 
Minerva, Venus, the Fates, and the Graces. When 
the victim was opened, the gall was taken out, and 
thrown behind the altar, as a symbol that all anger 
and malice must be cast aside. The entrails were 
carefully examined by soothsayers, and if any un- 
lucky omen presented itself, the contract was dis- 
solved, as displeasing to the gods. The most fortu- 
nate omen that could appear was a pair of turtles, 
because those birds are remarkable for constant affec- 
tion to each other ; if one appeared alone, it was 
thought to prognosticate separation and sorrow to 
the young couple. 

In many places the bride was required to cut off 
some of her ringlets and offer them to the gods of 
marriage, at the same time pouring libations on their 
altars. 

Both bride and bridegroom wore bright colored 



GRECIAN WOMEN. 18 

garments, and were adorned with garlands, composed 
of flowers sacred to Venus, and other deities supposed 
to preside over nuptials. The house where the wed- 
ding was celebrated was likewise decked with gar- 
lands. 

The Boeotians used wreaths of wild asparagus, which 
is foil of thorns, but bears excellent fruit; it was 
therefore thought to resemble ladies, who give their 
lovers some trouble in gaining their hearts, but whose 
affection is a sweet reward. The bride carried an 
earthen vessel full of parched barley, and was ac- 
companied by a maid bearing a sieve, to signify her 
obligation to attend to domestic concerns ; a pestle 
was likewise tied, to the door, for the same purpose. 
The bride was usually conveyed in a chariot from 
her father's house to her husband's in the evening. 
She sat in the middle, with the bridegroom on one 
side, and one of her most intimate female friends on 
the other. A widower was not allowed to attend 
his bride, but sent one of his friends for that purpose. 
Blazing torches were carried before the young couple, 
and music followed them. Homer thus describes a 
bridal procession : 

" The youthful dancers in a circle bound 
To the soft flute, and cittern's silver sound ; 
Through the fair streets, the matrons in a row 
Stand in their porches, and enjoy the show." • 

When the chariot arrived at the bridegroom's 
dwelling, the axletree was burnt, to signify that the 
bride was never to return to the paternal roof. As 
they entered, figs and various kinds of fruit wer<* 

VOL ii. 2 



14 GRECIAN WOMEN. 

poured on their heads, as an indication of future 
plenty. A sumptuous banquet was prepared for re- 
lations and friends, after which the company diverted 
themselves with dances and hymeneal songs. 

At Athens, it was customary for a boy to come in 
during the feast, covered with thorn boughs and 
scorns, bearing a basket full of bread, and singing, 
" I have left the worse and found the better." Some 
have supposed this was in commemoration of their 
change of diet from acorns to corn, but Dr. Potter's 
supposition seems much more probable ; viz. that it 
was intended to indicate the superiority of marriage 
over single life. 

In Athens, the bride's feet were always washed in 
water brought from the fountain of Callirhoe, which 
was supposed to possess some peculiar virtue. She 
was lighted to her apartment with several torches. 
Around one of these flambeaux, the mother tied the 
hair-lace of her newly wedded daughter, taken from 
her head for that purpose. Mothers considered it a 
great misfortune if illness, or any accident, prevented 
them from performing this ceremony. The married 
couple ate a quince together, to remind them that 
their conversation with each other should be sweet 
and agreeable. The company remained until late at 
night, dancing and singing songs filled with praises 
of the bridegroom and bride, and wishes for their 
happiness. In the morning they returned, and again 
saluted them with songs. The solemnities continu- 
ed several days ; during which relations and friends 
offered gifts, consisting of golden vessels, couches, 



GRECIAN WOMEN. 1§ 

ointment boxes, combs, sandals, &c, carried in great 
state to the house of the bridegroom by women, pre- 
ceded by a boy in white apparel, with a torch in his 
hand, and another bearing a basket of flowers. It 
was likewise customary for the bridegroom and his 
friends to give presents to the bride, on the third day 
after the wedding, which was the first time she ap* 
peared unveiled. 

The old Athenian laws ordered that men should 
be thirty-five and women twenty-six, before they 
married ; but Plato considered thirty a suitable age 
for the bridegroom, and other writers approved of 
brides as young as eighteen, or fifteen. Grecian 
women never changed the name they received when 
infants : thus Xantippe would be distinguished from 
another of the same name, by being called Xantippe. 
the wife of Socrates. 

In the primitive ages women were purchased by 
their husbands, and received no dowry from relations ; 
but with the progress of civilization and wealth this 
custom disappeared, and wives were respected in 
proportion to the value of their marriage portion. 
Medea, in E uripides, complains that women were the 
most miserable of the human race, because they were 
obliged to buy their own masters at a dear rate. 
Those who brought no dowry were liable to be spo- 
ken of contemptuously, as if they were slaves rather 
than lawful wives. Hence, when men married wo- 
men without fortune, they generally gave a written 
instrument acknowledging the receipt of a dowry. 
Those who received munificent portions required a 



16 GRECIAN WOMEN. 

greater degree of respect, and expected additional 
privileges on that account. Hermione, in Euripides, 
is enraged that the captive Andromache should pre- 
tend to rival her in the affections of Pyrrhus ; and 
she thus addresses her : 

" With these resplendent ornaments of gold 
Decking my tresses, in this robe arrayed, 
Which bright with various tinctured radiance flames, 
Not from the house of Peleus or Achilles 
A bridal gift, I come. In Sparta this 
From Menelaus, my father, I received 
With a rich dowry : therefore I may speak 
Freely, and thus to you address my words. 
Woman ! would'st thou, a slave, beneath the spear 
A captive, keep possession of this hodse, 
And drive me out V* 

Some have supposed that Solon intended to forbid 
dowries, because one of his laws declares, " A bride 
shall not carry with her to her husband above three 
garments, and vessels of small value." But this was 
probably intended merely to prevent extravagance in 
dress and furniture ; for he allowed men who had no 
sons to leave. their estates to daughters, and express 
laws were made to secure the property in the family, 
by regulating the marriage of heiresses. The 
daughters of several Grecian monarchs carried their 
husbands whole kingdoms for a dowry. When dis- 
tinguished men died in poverty, the state sometimes 
provided for their children. Thus the Athenians 
gave three hundred drachmas to each of the orphan 
daughters of Aristides, and bestowed a farm belong- 
ing to the city upon the grand-daughter of their fa- 
mous patriot, Aristogiton. Phares, of Chalcedon, 



GRECIAN WOMEN. 17 

made a law that rich men should give a portion to 
their daughters when they married poor men, but re- 
ceive none with their sons' wives. . As luxury in- 
creased, it followed, as an inevitable consequence, that 
marriages were more and more made with a view to 
the acquisition of wealth ; and fathers were disap- 
pointed at the birth of a daughter, on account of the 
expense attending her establishment. It was custom- 
ary for the bridegroom to build and furnish the house, 
and to make a settlement large in proportion to her 
dowry, for the support of his wife in case of death or 
divorce ; but unless a written receipt of dowry could 
be produced by the woman's friends, the husband 
could not be compelled to allow a separate mainte- 
nance. Heirs were bound by law to support the 
wives of those from whom they received estates. 

When sons became of age, they enjoyed their mo- 
ther's fortune during her lifetime, affording her a 
maintenance in proportion to her rank. If a woman 
died without children, her dowry returned to the re- 
lative by whom it had been bestowed. 

Girls who had no fathers were disposed of by 
their brothers ; and if they had neither parents nor 
brethren, the duty devolved upon grandfathers, or 
guardians. Sometimes husbands betrothed their 
wives to other persons on their death-beds. The fa- 
ther of Demosthenes gave his wife to one Aphobus, 
with a considerable portion. Aphobus took the por- 
tion, but refused to marry the woman after the death 
of her husband ; in consequence of which her son ap- 
pealed to the magistrates. The same orator engaged 



18 GRECIAN WOMEN. 

in the defence of Phormio, who having been a faith- 
ful slave, his master, before he died, bestowed upon 
him freedom and his wife. 

The forms of betrothing varied in some particulars 
in different cities, but bore a general resemblance. 
The parties took each other by the right hand, pro- 
mised fidelity, and sometimes kissed each other, 
while the relative of the woman pronounced these, or 

similar words : " I bestow upon thee, , my 

daughter, or my sister, or my ward, with such and 
such money, lands, cattle, or flocks, for her dowry." 

In case of divorce, a man was obliged to restore 
his wife's portion, and was required to pay monthly 
interest upon it, so long as he detained it from her. 

In general the Grecian laws allowed men to put 
away their wives upon slight occasions ; even the 
fear of having too large a family was considered suf- 
ficient ground for divorce. A woman incurred great 
scandal in departing from her husband. In Athens, 
if wives had reason to complain of their husbands, 
they could appeal to the appointed magistrate, by 
appearing publicly in court, and placing in his hands 
a written statement of their grievances. Hipparete, 
the wife of Alcibiades, losing all patience with his 
continued profligacy, availed herself of this privilege ; 
but when she presented herself before the archon, 
Alcibiades seized her by force, and carried her off ; 
no person presuming to interfere with his authority. 

It was not unusual for the marriage tie to be dis- 
solved with consent of both parties. Thus Pericles 
and his wife being weary of each other's society, he 



&EECIAN WOMEN. 19 

bestowed her upon another man, with her own free 
will and consent. There is likewise reason to sup- 
pose that men sometimes lent their wives to each 
other, without any of the parties incurring blame by 
the transaction ; but when intrigues were carried on 
without the husband's sanction, severe penalties 
were incurred. Women were sometimes put to 
death, but more generally sold into slavery. They 
were never after allowed to enter the temples, or wear 
any but the most ordinary clothing. Whoever found 
them disobeying these laws, might tear off their gar- 
ments, and beat them with any degree of severity 
that did not endanger their life or limbs. 

Wealthy paramours generally brought themselves 
out of difficulty by paying a heavy fine ; but those 
unable to do this, were liable to very severe and dis- 
graceful punishments. 

Although the law allowed but one wife, it was 
thought no dishonor to keep a train of mistresses, 
who were usually captives taken in war, or women 
stolen by Grecian sailors and brought home for sale. 
The public class of women was composed of indi- 
viduals derived from similar sources ; hence the term 
" strange woman" (meaning a foreign ivovian,) was 
a term of reproach with the Grecians, as well as the 
Jews. This shameless class were required by Gre- 
cian laws to wear flowered garments, by way of dis- 
tinction from the modest apparel of virtuous women ; 
and various texts of Scripture lead to the supposition 
that a similar custom prevailed among the Israelites 
Some of them acquired immense wealth ; and, what 



SO GRECIAN WOMEK, 

is much more singular, they in some instances enjoy» 
ed a degree of influence and consideration unattaina- 
ble by women of purer manners. 

When Thebes was demolished by Alexander, 
Phryne agreed to rebuild the entire walls at her own 
expense, if they would engrave on them this inscrip- 
tion : " These walls were destroyed by Alexander, 
but raised again by Phryne the courtesan. , ' Phryne 
had a statue of gold at Delphi, placed between two 
kings. Theopompus, in his letter to Alexander, 
speaking of a magnificent mausoleum near Athens, 
says : " This distinguished mark of public respect a 
courtesan has received ; while not one of all those 
who perished in Asia, fighting for the general safety 
of Greece, has been thought worthy to receive a simi- 
lar honor." Aspasia, first the mistress and afterward 
the w T ife of Pericles, obtained unrivalled influence and 
distinction. The most celebrated of the Athenian 
philosophers, orators, and poets, delighted in her so- 
ciety, and statesmen consulted her in political emer- 
gencies. They even carried their wives and daughters 
to her house, that they might there study agreeable 
manners and graceful deportment. This, together 
with the fact that Pericles made her his wife, and to 
the day of his death retained such a strong affection 
for her, that he never left her to go to the senate with- 
out bestowing a parting kiss, seems to imply that she 
could not have been so shockingly depraved as many 
writers have supposed. It is more probable that she 
deserves to rank in the same class as the Gabrielles, 
itad Pompadours of modern times. The public and 



GRECIAN WOMEN. 21 

distinguished attention such women received m 
Greece, was no doubt owing to the fact that they 
alone dared to throw off the rigorous restraints im- 
posed upon the sex, and devote themselves to grace- 
ful accomplishments, seductive manners, and agreea- 
ble learning. For this reason it was generally taken 
for granted that women of very strong, well-cultivated 
minds were less scrupulous about modesty, than 
those who lived in ignorance and seclusion. Sappho* 
the celebrated poetess, has by no means descended 
to posterity with an untarnished name. But a de- 
gree of injustice is no doubt done to her memory, by 
understanding the fervent language of the Greeks as- 
similar epithets would be understood in the dialect 
of colder climes. Had Sappho been the most profli- 
gate of woman-kind, she would not have been likely 
to destroy herself for love of one individual. She 
was the first woman who jumped from the famous 
promontory of Leucate, called the Lover's Leap, 
The superstition prevailed that those who could per- 
form this feat, and be taken up alive, would be cured 
of their passion. 

Many ceremonies were performed by Grecian 
women in the temple of Eleutho, who presided over 
the birth of children. During the hours of illness it 
was customary to hold palm branches in their hands, 
and invoke the favor of this goddess. The old laws 
of Athens expressly forbade that women or slaves 
should practise physic ; but one Agnodice, having 
disguised herself in male attire, studied the art under 
a skilful professor, and made the fact known to many 



22 GRECIAN WOMEN, 

of her own sex, who gladly agreed to employ her in 
preference to all others. The jealousy of the physi- 
cians led to a discovery of the plot, and Agnodice 
would have been ruined, had not all the principal 
matrons of Athens appeared in court and pleaded 
strongly in her favor. In consequence of their en- 
treaties, the old law was repealed, and women were 
allowed the attendance of female physicians. 

The Grecians generally wrapped infants in swad- 
dling bands, lest their tender limbs should become 
distorted. In Athens newly born babes were covered 
with a cloth on which a gorgon's head was embroi- 
dered, because that was represented on the shield of 
Minerva, to whose care the child was consigned. It 
was likewise customary to lay boys upon bucklers, 
as a prognostic of future valor. Infants were often 
placed upon other things bearing some resemblance 
to the sort of life for which they were designed. It 
was common to put them in vans made to winnow 
corn, and therefore considered as emblems of agri- 
cultural plenty. Sometimes instead of a real van, 
an image of it was made of gold or silver. Wealthy 
Athenians universally laid young infants upon dra- 
gons of gold, in memory of one of their kings, who, 
when an unprotected babe, was said to have been 
watched by dragons. When a child was five days 
old, the nurse took it in her arms and ran round the 
hearth, thus putting it under the protection of the 
household gods, to whom the hearth served as an 
altar. This festival was celebrated with great joy. 
Friends brought in their gifts, and partook of a feast, 



GRECIAN WOMEN. 23 

peculiar to the occasion. If the child was a boy, the 
door was decorated with an olive garland ; if a girl, 
wool was a substitute for the olive, in token of the 
spinning and weaving destined to occupy her ma- 
turer years. On the tenth day, another entertain- 
ment was given, and the child received its name, 
which was usually bestowed by the father. It was 
common to choose the name of some illustrious or 
beloved ancestor ; but names describing personal and 
moral qualities were frequently given, such as the 
ruddy faced, the eagle-nosed, the ox-eyed, the gifted, 
the lover of his brethren, &c. 

When the child was forty days old, another festi- 
val was kept, and the mother offered sacrifices in 
Diana's temple. Athenian nurses quieted fretful 
babes with sponges dipped in honey. 

It was common to expose children, especially fe- 
males, on account of the expense attending their set- 
tlement. Posidippus says : 

' A man, though poor, will not expose his son, 
But if he 's rich, will scarce preserve his daughter." 

The children thus exposed were wrapped in swad- 
dling bands, and placed in a sort of ark, or basket. 
Sometimes jewels were attached to them, as a means 
of discovery, if any person should find and nourish 
them ; or, as some have supposed, from the supersti- 
tion that it was important for the child to die with 
some of the parents' property in its possession. 

The Thebans disliked this cruel practice, and their 
laws made it a capital offence. Those who were too 
poor to rear their children, were ordered to carry 



24 GRECIAN WOMEN. 

them to the magistrates, who nourished them, and 
afterwards received their services in payment. 

The Grecians believed in the power of the evil eye, 
especially over little children. It was generally at- 
tributed to one under the influence of malice or en- 
vy ; and they endeavored to protect an infant from 
its baneful effects, by tying threads of various colors 
round the neck, and touching its forehead and lips 
with spittle mixed with earth. 

Filial respect and affection, the distinguishing vir- 
tue of olden times, was in high repute among the 
Grecians. The story of the daughter who nourished 
her imprisoned father with her own milk, is too well 
known to need repetition. Alexander the Great hav- 
ing received a letter from Antipater full of charges 
against Olympias, for her interference with public 
affairs, the monarch read it, and said, " Antipater 
knows not that one tear from a mother can blot out 
a thousand such complaints." 

Solon made a law that women should not join in 
the public funeral solemnities even of their nearest 
relations, unless they were threescore years old ; but 
this law did not continue to be observed ; for gallants 
are described as falling in love with young women 
whom they saw at funerals. It is supposed that 
men and women formed separate portions of the pro- 
cession ; the former preceding the corpse, the latter 
following it. Mourning women were employed to sing 
dirges, and bewail the dead. They beat their breasts, 
disfigured their faces, and made use of other violent 
demonstrations of grief. The female relatives of the 



GRECIAN WOMEN. 25 

departed often joined in these excesses, altogether re- 
gardless of the hideous scars produced thereby ; but 
this practice was forbidden by Solon. In many places 
it was the custom for women to shave their heads, 
and spread their tresses over the corpse. They laid 
aside all ornaments and rich attire, and wore black 
garments made of coarse materials. Those who 
were joined by near relationship, or strong affection, 
generally shared the same funeral urn. Thus Hal- 
cyone, whose husband perished at sea, says : 

:t Though in one urn our ashes be not laid, 
On the same marble shall our names be read ; 
In amorous folds the circling words shall join, 
And show how much I loved — how you was only mine." 

A very beautiful bass-relief found at Athens, repre- 
sents a woman seated, while a man with three little 
children seem bidding her an affectionate farewell. 
It probably marked the sleeping-place of some be- 
loved wife and mother. At the funeral of a married 
woman, matrons carried vases of water to pour upon 
her grave; girls performed this office for maidens, 
and boys for young men. These processions of wa- 
ter-bearers are often represented on ancient sepul- 
chres. An owl, a muzzle, and a pair of reins, were 
often carved on the tombs of women ; as emblems of 
watchfulness, silence, and careful superintendence of 
the family. 

It was not uncommon for widows to marry a 
second time ; but those who did otherwise were re- 
garded with peculiar respect. Charondas excluded 
from public councils those men who married a second 



§6 GRECIAN WOMEN. 

wife, when they already had children. " Those who 
do not consult the good of their own family cannot 
advise well for the good of the country," said he. 
" He whose first marriage has been happy, ought to 
rest satisfied with his share of good fortune ; if un- 
happy, he is out of his senses to incur another risk." 

In very early times the priestesses were allowed 
to marry ; thus Homer speaks of the beautiful Thea- 
no, wife of Antenor, who was unanimously chosen 
priestess of Minerva. At later periods, all who were 
devoted to the service of the temples were required 
to live unmarried. 

The oracles of the gods were universally uttered 
by women. The most celebrated was the Delphian 
oracle of Apollo. The priestess who uttered the 
prophetic words was called Pythia, or Pythonissa. 
She was obliged to observe the strictest rules of 
temperance and virtue, and to clothe herself in sim- 
ple, modest, and maidenly apparel. They neither 
anointed nor wore purple garments, because such 
habits belonged to the rich and luxurious. In early 
times the Pythia was chosen from young maidens ; 
but in consequence of a brutal insult offered to one 
of them, the selection was ever after made from wo- 
men more than fifty years old. Before the prophet- 
ess ascended the trip us, where she was to receive 
inspiration, she bathed herself, especially her hair, in 
the fountain of Castalia, at the foot of Parnassus, 
When she seated herself upon the tripus, she shook 
the laurel tree, that grew near it, and sometimes ate 
the leaves, which were thought to contain some vir- 



GRECIAN WOMEN. 21 

tue favorable to prophecy. In a short time she be- 
gan to foam at the mouth, tear her hair, and cut her 
flesh, like a maniac. The words she uttered during 
these paroxysms were the oracles. The fits were 
more or less violent ; sometimes comparatively gen- 
tle. Plutarch speaks of one enraged to such a de- 
gree that the terrified priests ran from her, and she 
died soon after. The time of consulting the oracle 
was only one month, in the spring of the year. 

Women had their share in sacred festivals among 
the Greeks. In the processions of the Panathensea, 
in honor of Minerva, women clothed in white carried 
torches and the sacred baskets. At the annual so- 
lemnity in honor of Hyacinthus and Apollo, the La- 
conian women appeared in magnificent covered chari- 
ots, and sometimes in open race-chariots. At the 
processions in honor of Juno, her priestess, who was 
always a matron of the highest rank, rode in a cha- 
riot drawn by white oxen. Aristophanes describes 
the wife and daughter of a citizen as assisting in the 
ceremonials of a rural sacrifice to Bacchus. The 
girl carried a golden basket filled with fruit, and a 
ladle with which certain herbs were poured over the 
sacred cakes. Her father followed, singing a hymn 
to the god, while the mother, standing on the house- 
top, watched the procession, and charged her daugh- 
ter to conduct herself like a lady, as she was, and to 
be cautious lest her golden ornaments were stolen in 
the crowd. 

One of the most ancient ceremonies among the 
Greek women was that of bewailing annually, with 



28 GRECIAN WOMEN. 

dirges and loud cries, the death of Adonis. Pro- 
cessions were formed, and images of Venus and Ado- 
nis carried aloft, together with shells filled with 
earth, in which lettuces were growing. This was 
done in commemoration of Adonis laid out by Venus 
on a bed of lettuce. 

In Attica, all girls not over ten or under five were 
consecrated to the service of Diana, during a solemni- 
ty which took place once in five years. On that occa- 
sion all female children of the proper age appeared 
dressed in yellow robes, while victims were offered 
to the goddess, and certain men sung one of Homer's 
Iliads. No Athenian woman was allowed to be 
married unless this ceremony had been performed. 

The festival in honor of Ceres was observed with 
much solemnity at Athens. None but free-born 
women were allowed to be present ; and every hus- 
band who received a portion of three talents with 
his wife, was obliged to assist in defraying the ex- 
penses. The women were assisted in the ceremoni- 
als by a priest, who wore a crown, and by certain 
maidens, who were strictly sec'uded, kept under se- 
vere discipline, and maintained at the public charge. 
The solemnity lasted four days. All the women who 
aided in it were clothed in simple white garments, 
without ornaments or flowers. Not the slightest 
immodesty or merriment was permitted ; but it was 
a custom to say jesting things to each other, in me- 
mory of Jambe, who by a jest extorted a smile from 
Ceres, when she was discouraged and melancholy. 
On one of the festival days, the women walked in 



GRECIAN WOMEN. 29 

procession to Eleusis, carrying books on their heads, 
in memory of Ceres, who was said to have first 
taught mankind the use of laws ; on this occasion it 
was against the law for any one to ride in a chariot. 
There was likewise a mysterious sacrifice to Ceres, 
from which all men were excluded ; this was said to 
have been because in a dangerous war, the prayers of 
women so prevailed with the gods, that their enemies 
were driven away. 

The custom of offering human beings as sacrifices 
to the gods was regarded with great abhorrence by 
the primitive Greeks ; but several instances occurred 
in later times where captives taken in war were de- 
voted to this purpose. There is reason to suppose 
that the victims were generally men ; but there were 
exceptions to this remark. Bacchus had an altar in 
Arcadia, upon which young damsels were beaten to 
death with bundles of rods. Iphigenia, daughter of 
Agamemnon, was likewise about to be sacrificed to 
Diana, because the soothsayer so decreed, when the 
Greeks were kept back from the Trojan war by con- 
trary winds ; and Macaria, the daughter of Herculea 
and Dejanira, voluntarily offered herself as a victim, 
when the oracle declared that one of her father's family 
must die, to insure victory over their enemies. Great 
honors were paid to the memory of this patriotic girl, 
and a fountain in Marathon was called by her name. 

The Athenian slaves were much protected by the 
laws. If a female slave had cause to complain of 
any want of respect to the laws of modesty, she 
could seek the protection of the temple, and demand 

vol. il 3 



30 



GRECIAN WOMEN. 



a change of owners ; and such appeals were never 
discountenanced or neglected by the magistrates. 

The Milesian women being at one period much ad- 
dicted to suicide, a law was passed that all who died 
by their own hands should be exposed to the public ; 
and this effectually prevented an evil, which no other 
means had been able to prevent. 

The customs of Sparta differed in many respects 
from the rest of Greece. When a match was decided 
upon, the mother, or nurse of the bride, or some other 
woman who presided over the arrangements, shaved 
the girl's hair, dressed her in masculine attire, and 
left her alone in an apartment at evening. The lover, 
in his every-day clothes, sought an opportunity to 
enter by stealth, but took care to return to his own 
abode before daylight, that his absence might not be 
detected by his companions. In this manner only 
did custom allow them to visit their wives, until they 
became mothers. Lycurgus passed a law forbidding 
any dowry to be given to daughters, in order that 
marriage might take place from motives of affection 
only. Marriage was much encouraged in every part 
of Greece, and peculiarly so in Sparta. The age at 
which both sexes might marry was prescribed by 
Jaw, and any man who lived without a wife beyond 
the limited time was liable to severe penalties. Once 
every winter, they were compelled to run round the 
forum without clothing, and sing a certain song, the 
words of which exposed them to ridicule ; they were 
not allowed to be present at the exercises where 
beautiful young maidens contended ; on a certain 



GRECIAN WOMEN. 31 

festival, the women were allowed to drag them round 
an altar, beating them with their fists ; and young 
people were not required to treat them with the same 
degree of respect that belonged to fathers of families. 

Polygamy was not allowed, and divorces were ex- 
tremely rare ; but the laws encouraged husbands to 
lend their wives when they thought proper. Lycur- 
gus reversed the Athenian custom, and allowed bro 
ther and sister of the same mother to marry, while 
he forbade it if they both had the same father. In 
Sparta there was a very ancient statue, called, Venus 
Juno, to which mothers offered sacrifice on the occa- 
sion of a daughter's marriage. 

Damsels appeared abroad unveiled, but married 
women covered their faces. Charilus, being asked 
the reason of this practice, replied, "Girls wish to 
obtain husbands, and wives aim only at keeping 
those they already have." Lycurgus ordered that 
maidens should exercise themselves with running, 
wrestling, throwing quoits, and casting darts, with 
the view of making them healthy and vigorous ; and 
for fear they might have too much fastidiousness and 
refinement, he ordered them to appear on these occa- 
sions without clothing. All the magistrates and 
young men assembled to witness their performances, 
a part of which were composed of dances and songs. 
These songs consisted of eulogiums upon such men 
as had distinguished themselves by bravery, and 
satirical allusions to those who had been cowardly 
or effeminate ; and as they were sung in hearing of 
the senate and people, no inconsiderable degree of 



32 GRECIAN WOMEN. 

pride or shame was excited in those who were the 
subjects of them. 

The Spartans bathed new-born infants in wine, 
from the idea that vigorous children would be 
strengthened by it, while those who were weakly 
would either faint, or fall into convulsions. Fathers 
were not allowed to educate and nourish their own 
children, if they were desirous to do so. All infants, 
being considered the property of the commonwealth, 
were brought to the magistrates to be examined. If 
vigorous and well formed, a certain portion of land 
was allotted for their maintenance ; but if they ap- 
peared sickly or deformed, they were thrown into a 
deep cavern and left to perish. 

The Spartan nurses were so celebrated, that they 
were eagerly sought for by people of other countries. 
They never used swaddling bands, and religiously 
observed the ceremony of laying infants upon buck- 
lers, as soon as they were born. They taught chil- 
dren to eat any kind of food, or to endure the priva- 
tion of it for a long time ; not to be afraid when left 
alone, or in the dark ; to be ashamed of crying, and 
proud to take care of themselves. 

The Spartans mourned for deceased relations with 
great composure and moderation ; though when a 
king died, it was ' customary for men, women, and 
slaves, to meet together in great numbers, and tear 
the flesh from their foreheads with sharp instruments. 
Indeed, in all things they endeavored to make their 
own interest and feelings subordinate to the public 
good, When news came of the disastrous overthrow 



GRECIAN WOMEN. 33 

of the Lacedaemonian army at Leuctra, those matrons 
who expected to receive their sons alive from the 
battle, were silent and melancholy ; while those who 
received an account that their children were slain in 
battle, went to the temples to offer thanksgivings, 
and congratulated each other with every demonstra- 
tion of joy. 

The Lacedaemonians usually carried bodies to the 
grave on bucklers ; hence the command of the Spar- 
tan mother to her son, " either to bring his buckler 
back from the wars, or be brought upon it." 

Some foreign women said to Gorgo, wife of king 
Leonidas, " You Spartans are the only women that 
govern men." " Because we are the only women 
who give birth to men," she replied. This answer 
was in allusion to their own strength and vigor, and 
to the pains they took to make their boys bold and 
hardy. 

The Lacedaemonian women seem to have had a 
share in all the concerns of the commonwealth ; and 
during the early portions of their history they ap- 
pear to have been well worthy of the respect paid to 
them. When a new senator was chosen, he was 
crowned with a garland, and the women assembled 
to sing his domestic virtues and his warlike courage. 
At the public feast given in honor of his election, he 
called the female relative for whom he had the great- 
est esteem and gave her a portion, saying, " That 
which I received as a mark of honor, I give to you." 
When Cleomenes, king of Sparta, was beset with 
powerful enemies, the king of Egypt agreed to fur- 



34 GRECIAN WOMEN, 

nish him with succors, provided he would send hi$ 
mother and his children as hostages. Filial respect 
and tenderness made the prince extremely unwilling 
to name this requisition. His mother, perceiving that 
he made an effort to conceal something from her, 
persuaded her friends to tell her what it was. As 
soon as she heard it, she laughed outright, and said, 
" Was this the thing you so long hesitated to com- 
municate ? Put us on board a ship, and send this 
old carcase of mine wherever you think it may be 
of the most use to Sparta, before age renders it good 
for nothing, and sinks it into the grave." When 
everything was ready for departure, she, being alone 
with her son, saw that he struggled hard with emo- 
tion. She threw her arms around him, and said, 
" King of the Lacedaemonians, be careful that we do 
nothing unworthy of Sparta ! This alone is in our 
power ; the event belongs to the gods." 

When Cleombrotus rebelled against his wife's fa- 
ther, in spite of her entreaties, and usurped the king- 
dom, Chelonis left her husband and followed the 
fallen fortunes of her parent ; but when the tide 
turned, and Cleombrotus was in disgrace and danger, 
she joined her husband as a suppliant for royal mercy, 
and was found sitting by him, with the utmost ten- 
derness, with her two children at her feet. She as- 
sured her father that if his submission and her tears 
could not save his life, she would die before him. 
The king, softened by her entreaties, changed the 
intended sentence of death into exile, and begged his 
daughter to remain with a father who loved her so 



SOMAN WOMEN, 35 

affectionately. But Chelonis could not be persuaded. 
She followed her husband into banishment. 

Such was the character of Spartan women in the 
earlier periods of their history ; but in later times 
their boldness and immodesty increased to such a 
degree that they became a by-word and a reproach 
throughout Greece. 

In Grecian mythology, the goddesses are about as 
numerous and important as the gods. That Beauty, 
Health, and Majesty should be represented as female 
deities, is by no means remarkable ; but, considering 
the estimation in which women were held, it is 
somewhat singular that Wisdom should have been a 
goddess, and that sister muses should have presided 
over history, epic poetry, dramatic poetry, and as- 
tronomy. The tradition that Ceres first taught the 
use of laws does not probably imply that legislation 
was invented by a woman ; but that as men left a 
wandering life, and devoted themselves to agricul- 
ture, (of which Ceres was the personification,) they 
began to perceive the necessity of laws for mutual 
defence and protection. 

In the earliest and best days of Rome, the first 
magistrates and generals of armies ploughed their 
own fields, and threshed their own grain. Integrity, 
industry, and simplicity, were the prevailing virtues 
of the times ; and the character of women was, as it 
always must be, in accordance with that of men. 
Columella says: " Roman husbands, having complet- 
ed the labors of the day, entered their houses, free 



86 ROMAN WOMEN. 

from all care, and there enjoyed perfect repose. 
There reigned union, and concord, and industry, sup- 
ported by mutual affection. The most beautiful wo- 
man depended for distinction only on her economy, 
and endeavors to assist in crowning her husband's 
diligence with prosperity. All was in common be- 
tween them ; nothing was thought to belong more to 
one than another. The wife, by her assiduity and 
activity within doors, equalled and seconded the in- 
dustry and labor of her husband. " 

It was common for sons to marry and bring home 
their wives to the paternal estate. Plutarch says : 
" There were not fewer than sixteen of the iElian 
family and name, who had only a small house and 
one farm among them ; and in this house they all 
lived, with their wives and many children. Here 
dwelt the daughter of JEmilius, who had been twice 
consul, and had triumphed twice ; not ashamed of 
her husband's poverty, but admiring that virtue 
which kept him poor." 

Tanaquil, wife of Tarquin the First, one of the 
best kings of Eome, was noted for her industry and 
ingenuity, as well as energy and ambition. Her dis- 
taff was hung up in the temple of Hercules, and her 
girdle, with a robe she embroidered for her son-in- 
law, were long preserved with the utmost veneration. 
Her political influence seems to have been great, and 
her liberality munificent. Her husband was origi- 
nally a private citizen of Tarquinia ; but her know- 
ledge of augury led her to predict that an uncommon 
destiny awaited him at Eome, and she persuaded 



ROMAN WOMEN. 37 

him to go thither. After his death, she succeeded in 
raising her son-in-law, Servius Tullius, to the throne. 

Lucretia, a young matron of high rank, was found 
busy among her maidens, assisting their spinning 
and weaving, and preparation of wool, when her 
husband arrived with his guests, late in the evening. 
The high value placed upon a stainless reputation 
may be inferred from the fact that Lucretia would 
not survive dishonor, though she had been the blame- 
less victim of another's vices. 

Cornelia, the daughter of Scipio Africanus, was 
courted by a monarch, but preferred being the wife 
of Sempronius Gracchus, a Roman citizen. After 
the death of her husband, she took the entire ma- 
nagement of his estate, and the education of her sons. 
She was distinguished for virtue, learning, and good 
sense. She wrote and spoke with uncommon ele- 
gance and purity. Cicero and Quintilian bestow 
high praise upon her letters. The eloquence of her 
children was attributed to her careful superinten- 
dence. When a Campanian lady ostentatiously dis- 
played a profusion of jewels, and begged Cornelia to 
show hers, she exhibited her boys, just returned from 
school, saying : " These are my jewels ; the only 
ornaments of which I can boast." During her life- 
time, a statue was erected in honor of her character, 
bearing this inscription : " Cornelia, mother of the 
Gracchi." 

The rigid decorum of Roman manners may be 
inferred from the circumstance that Cato expelled a 
senator, merely because he kissed his wife in the 



38 ROMAN WOMEN. 

presence of his daughter. " For my own part," said 
he, " my wife never embraces me except when it 
thunders terribly ;" adding, by way of joke, " I am a 
very happy man when Jove is pleased to thunder. " 

The superior condition of Roman women, in com- 
parison with the Greeks, may in a great measure be 
attributed to an event that occurred in the very be- 
ginning of their history. 

Romulus, being unable to obtain wives for the citi- 
zens of his new commonwealth, celebrated public 
games, to which people of neighboring nations were 
invited. In the midst of the entertainment he and 
his soldiers seized a large number of women, princi- 
pally Sabines, and carried them off to his camp. 
Their restitution was demanded and refused ; but the 
warlike husbands, anxious to conciliate the affections 
of wives obtained in a manner so violent, treated them 
with such tenderness, that the women were themselves 
unwilling to return to their relatives. This led to a 
war with the Sabines, and Romulus was closely be- 
sieged in his citadel. At this crisis, Hersilia, his 
wife, asked and obtained an audience with the senate, 
in which she told them that the women had formed 
a design of acting as mediators between their hus- 
bands and fathers. A decree was immediately passed 
in favor of the proposition. Every woman was 
required to leave one of her children, as a hostage 
of her return ; the others they carried in their arms, 
to soften the feelings of their parents. They pro- 
ceeded to the Sabine camp, dressed in deep mourn- 
ing, and knelt at the feet of their relatives. Hersilia 



ROMAN WOMEN. 39 

described the kindness of their husbands, and their 
own reluctance to be torn from their families, in a 
manner so eloquent and pathetic, that an honorable 
and friendly alliance was soon agreed upon. 

In consideration of this important service, the Ro- 
mans conferred peculiar privileges on women. In 
capital cases, they were exempted from the jurisdic- 
tion of ordinary judges; no immodest language or 
behavior was allowed in their presence ; every one 
was ordered to give way to them in the street ; and 
a festival was instituted in their honor, called Ma- 
tronalia, during which they served their slaves at 
table, and received presents from their husbands. 

Three kinds of marriage were in use among the 
Romans, called confarreatio, coemptio, and usus. The 
first was established by Romulus, and was the most 
solemn, as well as the most ancient. A priest, in 
the presence of at least ten witnesses, pronounced 
certain words, and sacrificed to the gods a cake made 
of salt, water, and wheat-flour. The bride and bride- 
groom ate of this cake, to signify the union which 
ought to bind them. This manner of celebrating 
marriage made a wife the partner of all her hus- 
band's substance, and gave her a right to share in 
the peculiar sacred rites attached to his family. If 
he died intestate, and without children, she inherited 
his whole fortune, as a daughter ; if he left children, 
she shared equally with them. If she committed any 
fault, the husband judged of it in presence of her re- 
lations, and punished her at pleasure. Sometimes 
when women were publicly condemned by law, the 



40 ROMAN WOMEN. 

penalty was left to the judgment of her husband and 
relations. The priests of Jupiter were chosen from 
sons born of this kind of marriage, and the vestal 
virgins were selected from the daughters. 

The coemptio, or mutual purchase, consisted of the 
bride and bridegroom's giving each other pieces of 
money. The man asked the woman, " Are you wil- 
ling to be the mistress of my family ?" She answered, 
" I am willing;" and then asked him a similar ques- 
tion, to which he replied in the same manner. Ac- 
cording to some authors it was accompanied with the 
same ceremonies, and conferred the same privileges, 
as the other form of marriage ; and it continued in 
use a long time after confarreatio was out of date. 

That which was called usus, or usage, was when a 
woman, with consent of her parents or guardians, 
lived a whole year with a man, without being absent 
from his house three nights. She thus became his 
wife, and is supposed to have had the same rights 
and privileges as other wives ; but if absent three 
nights, she was said to have annulled the contract. 

No young man was allowed to marry before he 
was fourteen, and no girl before she was twelve. A 
man sixty years old was not permitted to marry a 
woman younger than fifty ; and if he was more than 
sixty, he could not marry a woman of fifty. 

Brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, and cousin- 
germans, were not permitted to marry each other. 
For some time it was contrary to law for a patrician 
to marry a plebeian ; but this continued only about 
five years. 



ROMAN WOMEN. 41 

All alliances with women of blemished reputation, 
or low extraction, were considered dishonorable. No 
marriage of a Roman with a foreigner could be legal, 
unless express permission had been first obtained from 
the government. Cicero even reproached Anthony 
for marrying Fulvia, because her father was a freed- 
man. A law was, however, passed, by which only 
senators, their sons, and grandsons, were forbidden to 
marry a freed- woman, an actress, or the daughter of 
an actor. Finally the right of citizenship was grant- 
ed to all inhabitants of countries belonging to the 
Eoman empire, and the stigma attached to foreign 
alliances was removed. 

Neither sons nor daughters could marry without 
their father's approbation. The mother's consent 
was usually asked as a matter of propriety, though 
there was no legal restriction to that effect. 

When the consent of parents had been obtained, 
the relatives held a meeting to settle the articles of 
contract, which were written and sealed, in presence 
of witnesses. They broke a straw, according to 
their custom in making bargains ; hence it was 
called stipulation, from stipula, a straw. This occa- 
sion was usually celebrated by a feast, during which 
the bridegroom made presents to the bride, and gave 
her a ring, that in early times was plain, and made 
of iron, but afterwards of gold. It was worn on the 
fourth finger of the left hand, on account of the idea 
that a vein went from that finger to the heart. Some 
of these bridal rings were made of brass or copper, 
with the figure of a key, to signify that the husband 



42 ROMAN WOMEN. 

delivered her the keys of his house. Some of them 
have been found bearing devices ; such as I love you. 
I wish you a happy life. Love me. If, after the 
espousals, either party wished to retract, they could 
do so, by observing certain forms. 

The marriage portion varied according to the 
wealth and rank of the parties. It was delivered in 
money, or secured upon lands ; and was paid at 
three terms fixed by law. The husband was not per- 
mitted to alienate it ; and in case of divorce, except 
it took place by his wife's fault, her relations could 
reclaim it. If any citizen caused a woman to lose 
her fair fame, he was obliged to marry her without a 
portion, or give her one proportioned to her rank. 
In the first days of the republic, dowries were very 
small. The senate gave the daughter of Scipio 
about £35 10s. ; and one Megullia was surnamed 
Dotata, or the Great Fortune, because she had £161 
7s. 6d. sterling. But as wealth increased, the mar- 
riage portions became greater, until eight or nine 
thousand pounds sterling was the usual dowry of 
women of high rank. Seneca says, " The sum that 
the senate thought sufficient dowry for the daughter 
of Scipio, would not now suffice even the daughters 
of our freed-men to buy a mirror." 

No marriage took place without first consulting 
the auspices, and sacrificing to the gods, especially 
to Juno, who presided over matrimonial engage- 
ments. Like the Greeks, they took the gall from 
the victims, and threw it behind the altar. 

Certain days and festivals were regarded as un- 



H6MAN WOMEtf, 43 

lucky for a wedding ; particularly those marked in 
the calendar with black ; but widows might marry 
on those days. The whole month of May was re* 
garded as unfortunate for marriage, and the middle 
of June peculiarly auspicious* The ceremony was 
performed at the house of the bride's father, or near* 
est relation. She was dressed in a long white robe 
bordered with purple, and fastened with a girdle 
made of wool. Her hair was divided into six locks 
with the point of a spear, and crowned with a wreath 
of vervain gathered by herself. Her face was covered 
with a flame-colored veil, and she wore high shoes of 
the same color. In the evening, she was conducted 
to her husband's house. She was taken apparently 
by force from the arms of her mother, or nearest fe- 
male relative, in memory of the Sabine women seized 
by Eoman soldiers. Three boys, who had parents 
living, attended upon her; one supporting each arm, 
and the third walking before her with a lighted flam- 
beau. Eelations and friends eagerly sought to carry 
away this torch, when they came near the bride- 
groom's house ; partly on account of some peculiar 
virtue it was supposed to possess, and partly for fear 
it should be made use of for some fascination, that 
would shorten the lives of the young couple. 

A young slave followed the bride, carrying, in a 
covered vase, her toilet, and corals, and children's 
playthings of all kinds, accompanied by maidens, 
bearing distaff, spindle, and wool. A great train of 
relations and friends attended the nuptial procession. 
The door of the bridegroom's house Avas adorned 



44 ROMAN WOMEN. 

with festoons, garlands of flowers, and lists of wool* 
len, rubbed with oil, and the fat of swine or wolves, 
to avert enchantments. When the bride arrived thi- 
ther, being asked who she was, she answered, " Caia." 
This custom was taken from the name of Caia Coeci- 
lia, generally called Tanaquil ; and the bride's an- 
swer implied that she intended to imitate such a good 
and industrious wife. She then bound the door-posts 
of her bridegroom with woollen fillets, likewise anoint- 
ed with oil, and the fat of swine or wolves ; from this 
circumstance the Latin word for wife is uxor, which 
signifies the anointer ; and our word uxorious is 
thence derived. 

The bride was gently lifted over her husband's 
threshold ; for it was reckoned a bad omen to touch 
it with her feet, because the threshold was sacred to 
Vesta, who presided over female purity. 

As soon as she entered, they sprinkled her with 
water, and delivered the keys of the house, to show 
that she was intrusted with the management of the 
family ; and a sheep-skin was spread before her, indi- 
cating that she was to work in wool. Both she and 
her husband were required to touch fire and water ; 
and with the water their feet were afterward bathed. 
In the early ages they put a yoke about the neck of 
the young couple, as an emblem of the mutual assis- 
tance they were expected to render each other in the 
cares and duties of life. The Latin word conjugiam, 
a yoke, is the origin of our word conjugial. The 
bridegroom feasted the relations, friends, and atten- 
dants of himself and bride. He was placed at the 



SOMAN WOMEN. 45 

head of the table, and the bride was laid in his bo- 
som. The feast was distinguished for the abundance, 
variety, and delicacy of the refreshments. It 'was 
accompanied with music. The guests sung to the 
honor of the newly married an epithalamium, begin- 
ning and ending with acclamations, in which was 
often repeated the name of Thalassius. The follow- 
ing circumstance is supposed to have been the origin 
of this custom : when the Sabine women were forci- 
bly carried to the Roman camp, one of them, very 
remarkable for her youthful beauty, attracted so 
much attention, that quarrels were likely to ensue 
concerning her. The men who carried her, wishing 
to avoid any such contention, thought of exclaiming 
aloud that they were carrying her to Thalassius, a 
handsome and brave young man, exceedingly beloved 
by the people. As soon as this was proclaimed, the 
soldiers withdrew all opposition, and rent the air 
with acclamations of the hero's name. The mar- 
riage thus prepared for Thalassius proved so happy 
and prosperous, that the Romans ever after, in their 
epithalamia, were accustomed to wish the newly- 
married pair a destiny like his. 

The bride was conducted to her apartment by ma- 
trons, who had been married to only one husband. 
The bridegroom scattered nuts among the boys, and 
the bride consecrated her dolls and playthings to 
Venus, thereby intimating that they relinquished 
the sports of childhood. When the guests departed, 
small presents were distributed among them. 

Next day another entertainment was given, when 
.. ii. 4 



48 feOMAN WOMEN, 

presents were sent to the bride by relations and 
friends, and she performed certain sacred rites appro- 
priate to the mistress of a family. The goods which 
a woman brought her husband beside her dowry were 
called bona paraphernalia. 

Daughters generally received the name of their 
father, or some relation, varied only by ending ac- 
cording to the feminine instead of the masculine gen- 
der : thus Hortensia was the daughter of Hortensius ; 
and the two daughters of Mark Antony were named 
Antonia Major, and Antonia Minor. By way of 
endearment they frequently made use of those dimi- 
nutives, to which the language of Italy owes so much 
of its gracefulness ; thus the beloved daughter of 
Tullius Cicero was called Tulliola. In a numerous 
family, girls were often distinguished from each other 
by the diminutives of numbers ; as Secundilla, and 
Quartilla, the Second and the Fourth. At marriage, 
a woman retained her original name with the addi- 
tion of her husband's ; thus Cornelia, the wife of 
Sempronius Gracchus, was called Cornelia Sem- 
pronia. 

The birth of children was celebrated by a domestic 
festival, during which the gates were adorned with 
branches, garlands, and lamps, and a piece of money 
was deposited in the temple of Juno Lucina, whose 
office corresponded to the Eleutho of the Grecians. 
Boys received the family name on the ninth day after 
birth, and girls on the eighth ; but they did not give 
the pramomen, or, as we should say, the baptismal 
name, until they took the virile robe, which marked 



ROMAN WOMEN. 47 

their entrance into manhood ; and girls did not re- 
ceive it till they were married. 

Romulus introduced the Spartan custom of ex- 
posing all sickly and deformed children; with this 
restriction, that every child should be nourished 
three years, in order to try whether it would not, in 
that interval, attain health and vigor. In later times* 
this prohibition was disregarded, and the custom of 
exposing infants became very common. 

While the Romans retained their primitive simpli- 
city, mothers nursed their own babes, and would 
have considered it a great misfortune or reproach, to 
have employed another to fulfil that tender office ; 
but as luxury increased, indolence and love of plea- 
sure so far conquered maternal affection, that women 
of rank almost universally consigned their children 
to the care of female slaves. 

Education kept pace with the changing character 
of the people. At first, children were brought up in 
habits of laborious industry. When the arts and 
sciences were introduced, the cultivation of the mind 
and manners received a considerable degree of atten- 
tion ; and we know that girls shared in these privi- 
leges, because when Claudius wished to seize the 
beautiful Virginia as a slave, in order to deliver her 
to the infamous Appius, he arrested her as she re- 
turned from school, attended by her governante. In 
the last days of Rome, personal habits were exceed- 
ingly luxurious, and education became showy and 
superficial, because it was acquired from vanity, ra- 
ther than a love of knowledge. The power of Ro- 



48 ROMAN WOMEN. 

man fathers was excessive. They could imprison 
their children, load them with fetters, make them 
work with the slaves, sell them, and even put them 
to death ; but mothers had no legal share in this au- 
thority. A story is told of a Roman girl, who was 
starved to death by her father, because she picked the 
lock of a wine chest, to get at the wine. 

The habit of adopting children, even when the 
parents on both sides were living, was very common. 
The adopted were subject to the same authority, and 
received the same share of inheritance, as real sons 
and daughters. They generally retained the name 
of their own family, in addition to the one into 
which they were adopted. 

Though the Romans rivalled all preceding nations 
in justice and kindness toward women, yet husbands 
were intrusted with a degree of power, which modern 
nations would consider dangerous. A man might 
divorce his wife, if she violated the matrimonial vow, 
poisoned his offspring, brought upon him suppositious 
children, counterfeited his private keys, or drank 
wine without his knowledge. Valerius Maximus 
says that Egnatius Metellus, having detected his 
wife drinking wine out of a cask, put her to death, 
and was acquitted by Romulus. 

The ancient Romans did not allow women to in- 
herit property ; but as wealth increased, fathers did 
not like to leave their fortunes to distant male rela- 
tives, while their daughters were left portionless; 
they therefore managed to elude the law, by making 
such provision for their children, as rendered the % 



ROMAN WOMEN* 49* 

estates so taken of little value. The people, vexed 
at these proceedings, passed the Voconian law, by 
which no woman could inherit an estate, even if she 
were an only child; but after a time, the right of 
succession, both in moveables and land, was granted 
to females after the death of their brothers. 

Women could not dispose of property, or transact 
any business of importance, without the concurrence 
of a parent, husband, or guardian. Sometimes a man 
appointed a guardian to his widow, or daughters, 
and sometimes they were allowed to choose for them- 
selves. In some cases, discreet elderly women were 
appointed guardians. No women, except the vestal 
virgins, were allowed to give evidence in a court of 
justice concerning wills. The favorite attendants of 
noble Romans were sometimes intrusted with an ex- 
traordinary degree of power over the wives of their 
masters. Justinian's principal eunuch threatened to 
chastise the empress, if she did not obey his orders. 
These facts show that Roman women were by no 
means admitted to the social equality, which cha- 
racterizes the intercourse of the sexes at the present 
time ; but they ate and drank with the men, were 
present at convivial entertainments, enjoyed the 
evening air in the public groves, accompanied by 
fathers, husbands, or brothers, and enjoyed many 
privileges to which the women of neighboring na- 
tions were entire strangers. 

The Romans treated female captives with shame- 
Jess brutality. Queens and princesses were com- 
pelled to submit to the grossest personal indignities, 



50 ROMAN WOMEN. 

and were often dragged through the streets chained 
to the conqueror's chariot wheels. The stern fero- 
city that mingled with their better qualities is shown 
in the story of one of the Horatii, who killed his 
sister, merely because she wept for her lover slain 
by his hand ; and the example of Marcia, wife of 
Regulus, who shut up some Carthagenian prisoners 
in a barrel filled with sharp nails, to revenge her 
husband, who had been put to death in Carthage. It 
is, however, true that these actions were not sanction- 
ed by public opinion; for Horatius was punished, 
and the senate interfered to check the wanton cruelty 
of Marcia. 

The Romans followed the common practice of 
hiring mourning women to sing funeral songs in 
praise of the dead. The nearest female relations 
sometimes tore their garments, and covered their 
hair with dust. In the funeral procession, sons veil- 
ed their faces, and daughters went with uncovered 
heads and dishevelled hair, contrary to the usual 
practice of both. They followed the Grecian custom 
of burning the corpse, and depositing the ashes 
in an urn. Infants, that died before they had teeth 
were buried, not burned ; and all children not wean- 
ed were carried to the grave by their mothers. The 
sepulchres were covered with flowers and garlands, 
and a small altar was placed near, on which libations 
were made, and incense burnt. 

It was thought dishonorable for men to mourn ; 
but the law prescribed that women should mourn 
ten months for a parent, or a husband. During this 



ROMAN WOMEN. 51 

time they laid aside ornaments, and purple garments, 
and staid at home, avoiding all amusements ; some 
even refrained from kindling a fire in the house on 
account of its cheerful appearance. Under the re- 
public, women dressed in black like the men ; but 
under the emperors, when party-colored garments 
came in fashion, they wore white for mourning. If 
a widow married within ten months after her hus- 
band's decease, she was held infamous. Indeed se- 
cond marriages were never esteemed honorable in 
women. Even in the most corrupt days of the em- 
pire, those who had been married but to one hus- 
band were treated with peculiar deference ; hence 
Univira is often found on ancient sepulchres, as an 
epithet of honor. 

Plutarch says maidens never married on festivals, 
nor widows on working-days, because marriage was 
honorable to the one and seemed not to be so to the 
other ; for which reason they celebrated the marriage 
of widows in presence of a few, and on days that 
called off the attention of the people to other specta- 
cles. Those who remained widows had the first 
place in certain solemn ceremonies. The crown of 
chastity was decreed to them ; and if they married 
again, they were never after allowed to enter the 
temple of that divinity. 

The Romans borrowed their mythology from the 
Grecian, where female deities abound. When they 
invoked the gods by name, in their temples, the Ro- 
mans, in order to avoid mistakes, were accustomed 
to add, " Whether thou art a god, or whether thou 



52 ROMAN WOMEN. 

art a goddess." Women, as well as men, filled the 
sacred office of the priesthood. The vestal virgins 
were young girls, six in number, devoted to the ser- 
vice of Vesta. When any vacancy occurred, twenty 
maidens, not younger than six, or older than sixteen, 
were selected from the families of Roman citizens. 
It was required that their parents should both be 
living, and free-born, and that they themselves should 
be without any bodily imperfection or infirmity. It 
was determined by lot which of the twenty should 
be chosen ; unless some one, with requisite qualifica- 
tions, was voluntarily offered by parents, and approv- 
ed by the pontifex maximus, or high priest. The 
vestals were bound to their ministry for thirty 
years. For the first ten, they learned the sacred 
rites ; for the next ten, they performed them ; and 
for the last ten, they taught the younger virgins. 
It was the business of the vestals to keep the sa- 
cred fire continually burning ; they watched it in 
the night time alternately ; and whoever allowed it 
to go out, was severely scourged. The fire was re- 
lighted from the rays of the sun, and extraordinary 
sacrifices were made to avert the unlucky omen. 
Certain sacred images, on the preservation of which 
the safety of Rome was supposed to depend, were 
likewise intrusted to the care of the vestals. Wills 
and testaments were often deposited in their hands, 
by people who were afraid that relations would com- 
mit frauds and forgeries. They were chosen as the 
umpires of difficulties between persons of rank ; and 
their prayers were thought to have peculiar influence 



ROMAN WOMEN. 53 

with the gods. Even the praetors and consuls, when 
they met them in the street, lowered their fasces, 
and went out of the way, to show them respect* 
They were supported by a public salary ; had a 
lictor to attend them in the streets ; rode in chari- 
ots ; and sat in a distinguished place at the specta- 
cles. Any insult to them was punished with death; 
and if a criminal chanced to meet one of them on 
his way to execution, he was immediately set at 
liberty, provided the vestal affirmed that the meeting 
was unintentional. They were allowed to make 
their wills, although under age ; and were not sub- 
ject to the power of parents or guardians, like other 
women. They were not forced to swear, unless so 
inclined ; and their testimony was admitted concern- 
ing wills, though no other female was allowed to 
give evidence on the subject. Beside these exclusive 
honors, they enjoyed all the privileges of matrons 
who had three children. 

If any vestal violated her vow of chastity, she was 
buried alive, with funeral solemnities, after being 
tried and sentenced ; and her paramour was scourged 
to death in the forum. Such an event was always 
thought to forebode some dreadful calamity to the 
state, and extraordinary sacrifices were offered in ex- 
piation. 

When the vestals were first chosen, their hair was 
cut off, and buried under an old lotus tree in the city ; 
but it was afterward allowed to grow. They wore 
long white robes, edged with purple, and their heads 
were decorated with fillets and ribands. When 



54 ROMAN WOMEN, 

they left the service of the temple, they might marry ; 
but this was seldom done, and always reckoned 
ominous. 

There was at Rome a temple to the goddess who 
presided over the peace of marriages, and the ap- 
peasement of husbands. Gibbon remarks that her 
name, Viriplaca, shows that repentance and submis- 
sion were always expected from the woman. When 
domestic quarrels occurred, sacrifices were offered in 
this temple, to procure reconciliation. 

Beside innumerable religious ceremonies appro- 
priated to certain families, and performed on certain 
occasions, it was customary for the Eoman women, 
at the end of every consular year, to celebrate in the 
house of the consul, or praetor, certain rites in honor 
of Bona Dea, or the good goddess. No man was al- 
lowed to be present ; even the consul himself was 
obliged to leave his dwelling. Before the ceremo- 
nies commenced, every corner and lurking-place was 
carefully searched ; all pictures and statues of men 
contained within the building were covered with a 
thick veil ; and male animals of every kind were 
driven away. All being in readiness, the vestal vir- 
gins offered the customary sacrifices ; and women 
kept a secret so much better than free masons have 
done, that to this day there is no conjecture in what 
the ceremonies consisted, or why they were observed. 
Only one attempt was ever made to violate the pre- 
scribed rules. While Pornpeia, the third wife of 
Julius Caesar, was celebrating the mysteries, Clodius, 
a profligate Roman, who was enamored of her beauty, 



SOMAN WOMEN, Sb 

habited himself as a singing girl, and walked through 
the rooms, avoiding the light as much as possible, 
A maiden asked him to sing ; and as he did not re- 
ply, she followed him so closely that he was obliged 
to speak. His voice betrayed him, and the maiden 
shrieked aloud that the sacrifices were profaned by 
the presence of a man. He was driven out with ig- 
nominy, and soon after brought before the judges ; 
but the populace were in his favor, and he was ac- 
quitted. Caesar did not believe that Pompeia was 
aware of the intentions of Clodius ; but he immedi- 
ately repudiated her, saying, " the wife of Csesar 
must not even be suspected." On this occasion, 
Cicero made the following remarks : " This sacrifice, 
which is performed by the vestal virgins — which is 
performed for the prosperity of the Roman people — 
which is performed in the house of the chief ma- 
gistrate — celebrated with unknown ceremonies — in 
honor of a goddess, whose very name it is sacrilege 
to know — this sacrifice Clodius profaned !" 

Beside the augurs, or soothsayers, the Romans be- 
lieved in certain women, supernaturally inspired, 
called sibyls. The most celebrated is the sibyl of 
Cumas, in Italy. It was said that Apollo became en- 
amored of her, and offered to give whatever she 
would ask. She demanded to live as many years, 
as she had grains of sand in her hand ; but unfortu- 
nately forgot to ask for a continuance of youth and 
health. She usually wrote her prophecies on leaves, 
which she placed at the entrance of her cave ; and 

unless they were gathered up before the wind dis- 

m, 



66 ROMAN WOMEN. 

persed them, they became incomprehensible. The 
Roman historians declare that one of the sibyls came 
to the palace of Tarquin the Second, with nine vo- 
lumes, which she offered to sell at a very high price. 
The proposal being disregarded, she burned three, and 
asked the same price for the remaining six ; and 
when Tarquin refused to buy them, she burned three 
more, and still required the same sum for the re- 
mainder. This singular conduct surprised the king 
so much, that he consulted the soothsayers, who la- 
mented the destruction of so many of the books, and 
advised him to purchase those that remained. The 
sibyl disappeared, and never returned. The books 
were intrusted to the care of the priests, and con- 
sulted with the greatest solemnity on all important 
occasions. 

The Romans, like the Greeks, had firm belief in 
omens and enchantments, over which they supposed 
the moon presided ; hence their witches were repre- 
sented as haggard old women, muttering incanta- 
tions, and accompanied by dogs howling at the moon. 

Paulus iEmilius, having been appointed command- 
er-in-chief against Perseus, and conducted home from 
the Campus Martius in a very splendid manner, 
found his little daughter Tertia in tears. He took 
her in his arms, and asked her why she wept. The 
child embraced him, and said, " Do n't you know, 
then, father, that Perseus is dead ?" The girl alluded 
to her little dog ; but iEmilius replied, " I hail the 
lucky omen !" 

The Romans likewise used philtres. Lucullus 



HOMANWoMEft. 67 

lost his senses by a love potion ; and Caligula was 
thrown into a fit of madness by a philtre which hi© 
wife Caesonia administered. 

The ancient dress of Roman women was modest 
and simple, like their characters. They wore a tu- 
nic and toga, like those of the men, excepting that 
the tunic had sleeves, was high in the neck, and long 
enough to reach to the feet. The toga was a sort 
of ample robe fastened on the shoulder, and falling in 
graceful folds. They wore bands, or fillets, wrapped 
around the limbs, instead of stockings. Their cover- 
ing for the feet were of two kinds ; one consisting of 
a pair of soles, fastened with straps, nearly like what 
we call sandals ; the other, a kind of half boot, open 
from the toe, and laced in front. 

Women usually wore white shoes, until Aurelian 
allowed them to use red ones, forbidding all men, ex- 
cept the royal family, to wear the same color. The 
fashionable wore them very tight, with high heels? 
to give them a majestic appearance. 

As luxury increased, the ladies became less scru- 
pulous about exposing their persons. Tunics were 
made shorter, lower in the neck, and with sleeves 
open from the shoulder to the wrist, to display the 
beauty of the arm. A good deal of coquetry and 
grace was manifested in arranging the ample folds 
which fell from the girdle. The number of tunics 
increased, until it was customary to wear three. 
The last invented was a very full robe, called stola ; 
and after this was introduced, the toga was worn 
only by men and courtesans. The stola had a long 



58 ROMAN WOMEN* 

train, often embroidered with gold and purple. The 
upper part was fitted to the form, and being open in 
front displayed the second tunic. This gave the first 
idea of bodices, which soon became the most brilliant 
article of Roman dress, enriched with gold and pearls, 
and precious stones. Above this dress the ladies 
wore a very long mantle, fastened by a clasp on the 
shoulders, from which it flowed loose, supporting its 
own weight. It commonly rested on the left arm 
and shoulder, leaving the right arm entirely uncover- 
ed, according to the custom of the men. Under the 
reign of Nero, women began to wear silken robes, 
instead of linen or woollen ; yet more than half a 
century later, we find Aurelian refusing his empress 
a mantle of silk, because the threads were sold at 
their weight in gold. Afterward a kind of transpa- 
rent stuffbecame very fashionable. The texture was 
so delicate that they were obliged to color it before 
it was woven ; and the fabric was so open, that the 
body might be distinctly seen through it. Varro 
called them "dresses of glass," and Jerome loudly 
declaimed against them. 

Roman fans were round, like hand-screens ; gene- 
rally made of feathers, and sometimes with small 
metallic mirrors inserted above the handle. 

At first, garments were generally white ; none but 
people of great dignity wore them of purple ; but in 
process of time, all manner of brilliant and varied 
colors came into fashion. Women of rank loaded 
their shoes with embroidery and pearls, and prided 
themselves on the variety and costliness of their 



ROMAN WOMEN. 59 

necklaces, bracelets, ear-rings, and rings. Pliny says 
that even women of the utmost simplicity and mo- 
desty durst not venture abroad without diamonds, 
any more than a consul without the marks of his 
dignity. " I have seen," says that writer, " Lollia 
Paulina, wife of Caligula, load herself with jewels, 
even after her repudiation; not for any pompous 
festival, but for simple visits. The value of those 
she affected to show amounted to forty millions of 
sesterces, (more than two hundred thousand pounds.) 
They were not given by the prince, but were part of 
the effects which descended to her from Marcus Lolli- 
us, her uncle. " 

The Koman women in primitive times arranged 
their hair in simple braids, neatly fastened with a 
broad ribbon, or fillet. But afterward, they wore 
structures of curls, high as a towering edifice ; wigs 
of false hair, like a helmet ; combs made of box inlaid 
with ivory ; golden bodkins loaded with pearls ; and 
fillets embroidered with precious stones. 

Those who peculiarly studied decorum, still wore 
the plain broad fillet of olden times, and arranged 
their hair in simple, graceful knots at the back of the 
head. This style was called insigne pudoris, or a 
sign of modesty. 

Light colored hair was most admired. Both men 
and women dyed it, to make the color more lively ; 
they perfumed it, and applied essences to give it 
lustre. Sometimes they powdered it with gold dust ; 
which custom Josephus says was practised by the 
Jews. The hair of the emperor Commodus is said 



60 ROMAN WOMEN. 

to have been rendered so brilliant by the constant 
use of gold dust, that when he stood in the sunshine, 
his head appeared on fire. In the early ages, women 
never appeared in public without a veil ; but in later 
times this was dispensed with, or used merely in a 
coquettish manner. The beautiful but infamous Pop- 
psea always partially shaded her face with gauze, to 
increase the power of her charms. 

The Roman ladies enlarged their eyes by stooping 
over the vapor of burning powder of antimony ; and 
increased their expression by staining the eyelashes, 
and gently tinting the lid underneath with the same 
powder. The eyebrows likewise were finely pencil- 
led. Pliny speaks of a wild vine, the leaves and fruit 
of which were bruised together, to make a cosmetic 
for the complexion : and Ovid says some women 
bruised poppies in cold water, and applied it to their 
cheeks. Martial says Fabula was afraid of the rain, 
because of the chalk upon her face, and Sabella of 
the sun, on account of the ceruse with which she 
was painted. Poppasa made use of an unctuous paint, 
which formed a crust, that remained some time ; it 
was taken off with milk, and greatly increased the 
fairness of the complexion. Ladies were accused of 
keeping the crust for a domestic face, and reserving 
the beautiful one for seasons when they went abroad. 
Poppssa, from whom this paint derived its name, had 
a troop of she-asses following her, even when she 
went into exile. Juvenal says she would not have 
dispensed with them if she had gone to the hyperbo- 
rean pole. Every day they milked five hundred asses, 



ROM AN WOMEN. 61 

for a bath to maintain the softness and freshness of 
her complexion. 

The Roman ladies were very careful of their teeth. 
They cleansed them often with little brushes and 
tooth-picks. Some were silver ; but those made of 
lentisk wood were considered the best. Artificial 
teeth were sometimes used ; for Martial, in one of his 
epigrams, says to Maximina, " Thou hast only three 
teeth ; and those are of box varnished over." 

Ladies usually went to the bath when they first 
arose, and from the bath to the toilet. This impor- 
tant business occupied many hours. The attendants 
were numerous, and each one had a separate depart- 
ment. One combed, curled, and braided the hair ; a 
second arranged the jewels ; a third poured the per- 
fumes ; and a fourth prepared the cosmetics. Each 
one had a name expressive of her employment ; hence 
the words ornatrices, cosmetce, &c. Some, who were 
called parasites, were merely required to look on, 
and give advice.; those who were the best skilled in 
flattery were, of course, the greatest favorites. If a 
curl was misplaced, or a color unbecoming, the wait- 
ing maids were abused for the fault. Juvenal, speak- 
ing to one of these women, says, " Of what crime is 
that unhappy girl guilty, because your nose displeases 
you ?" 

It was not surprising that such a state of things 
should exist among women, when the men wore 
golden soles to their shoes, plucked out the hairs of 
the beard one by one, and applied bread dipped in 
milk to the face, to freshen the complexion. 

VOL. II. 5 



62 ROMAN WOMEN. 

Still, in all periods of Roman history, there were 
bright examples of female excellence. When Corio- 
lanus, in revenge for ungrateful treatment, threatened 
to destroy Rome with an invading army, the remon- 
strances and proposals of the nobility and senate had 
no effect on his stubborn pride. The Roman matrons 
persuaded his mother Veturia, and his wife Vergilia, 
to go to his camp, and try their influence in appeas- 
ing his resentment. The meeting between Coriola- 
nus and his family was extremely affecting. For 
a while he remained inflexible ; but the entreaties of 
a mother and a wife finally prevailed over his stern 
and vindictive resolutions. . The senate decreed that 
Veturia and Vergilia should receive any favor they 
thought proper to ask. They merely begged per- 
mission to build a temple to the Fortunes of Women, 
at their own expense. The senate immediately or- 
dered that it should be erected on the very spot where 
Coriolanus had been persuaded to save Rome. They 
likewise decreed them public thanks ; ordered the 
men to give place to them upon all occasions ; and 
permitted the Roman ladies to add another ornament 
to their head-dress ! ! 

Veturia was made priestess of the new temple, 
into which no woman who had married a second 
husband was allowed to enter. 

Portia, the daughter of Cato and wife of Brutus, 
was remarkable for her prudence, philosophy, and 
domestic virtues. She wounded herself severely, 
and endured the pain in silence, to convince her hus- 
band that she had sufficient courage to be intrusted 



ROMAN WOMEN. 63 

with his most dangerous secrets. Brutus admired 

her fortitude, and no longer concealed from her his 

intended conspiracy against Caesar. On the day 

when she knew the assassination was to take place, 

she fainted away with excess of anxiety ; but she 

faithfully kept the secret that had been intrusted to 

her. When she parted from Brutus, after the death 

of Caesar, a picture of Hector and Andromache, that 

was hanging on the wall, brought tears to her eyes. 

A friend of Brutus, who was present, repeated the 

address of the Trojan princess : 

" Be careful, Hector ! for with thee my ali, 
My father, mother, brother, husband, fall." 

Brutus replied, smiling, " I must not answer Portia 
in the words of Hector, ' Mind your wheel, and to 
your maids give law f for in courage, activity, and 
concern for her country's freedom, she is inferior to 
none of us ; though the weakness of her frame does 
not always second the strength of her mind." A 
false rumor having prevailed that Brutus was dead, 
Portia resolved not to survive him. Her friends, 
aware of her purpose, placed every weapon beyond 
her reach ; but she defeated their kindness by swal- 
lowing burning coals. 

The emperor Augustus is said to have seldom 
worn any domestic robes that were not woven by his 
wife, his sister, his daughters, or his nieces. His 
sister Octavia was celebrated for her beauty and her 
virtues. When her husband, Mark Antony, deserted 
her for the sake of Cleopatra, she went to Athens to 
meet him, in hopes of withdrawing him from this 



64 ROMAN WOMEN* 

disgraceful amour ; but she was secretly rebuked, 
and entirely banished from his presence. Augustus 
highly resented this affront to a beloved sister, but 
she gently endeavored to pacify him, and made all 
possible excuses for Antony. When she heard of 
her husband's death, she took all his children into 
her house, and treated them with the utmost tender- 
ness. She gave Virgil ten thousand sesterces for 
every line of his encomium upon her excellent and 
darling son Marcellus. The poet was requested to 
repeat these verses in the presence of Augustus and 
his sister. Octavia burst into tears as soon as he 
began ; but when he mentioned Tu Marcellus eris, 
she swooned away. She was supposed to have died 
of melancholy, occasioned by her son's death. Au- 
gustus himself pronounced her funeral oration, and 
the Roman people evinced their respect for her cha- 
racter by wishing to pay her divine honors. 

Agrippina, the granddaughter of Augustus, was a 
model of purity in the midst of surrounding corrup- 
tion. She accompanied her husband Germanicus 
into Germany, shared in all his toils and dangers, 
and attached herself to him with the most devoted 
affection. She often appeared at the head of the 
troops, appeasing tumults, and encouraging bravery. 
Tiberius, jealous of virtues that reflected so much 
dishonor on his own licentious court, entered into 
machinations against them. Germanicus was poi- 
soned, and Agrippina exiled and treated with the 
utmost indignity. Despairing of redress, she refused 
all sustenance, and died. 



ROMAN WOMEN. 65 

Arria, the wife of Psetus, not being allowed to ac- 
company her husband to Rome, when he was carried 
thither to be tried for conspiracy against the govern- 
ment, followed the vessel in a fisherman's bark hired 
for the occasion. She exerted every means to save 
his life ; and when she found all her efforts unavail- 
ing, she advised him to avoid the disgrace and tor- 
ture that awaited him, by voluntary death. Seeing 
that he hesitated, she plunged the dagger into her 
own heart, and gave it to him with a smile, saying, 
" It gives me no pain, my Psetus." In judging of 
these examples, we must remember that the Romans, 
in their sternness and stoicism, regarded suicide as a 
virtue, 

Eponina, the wife of Sabinus, lived with her hus- 
band concealed in a cave, for several years, rather 
than desert him at a time of disgrace and danger, the 
consequence of unsuccessful rebellion. Their retreat 
was at length discovered ; and neither her tears, 
nor the innocent beauty of two little twins born in 
the cavern, could soften the heart of Vespasian. The 
faithful wife was condemned to die with her husband. 

Valerius Maximus tells of an illustrious lady, 
whose mother being condemned to die by famine, the 
daughter obtained access to her prison, and nourished 
her with her own milk. When this was discovered, 
the criminal was pardoned ; both mother and daugh- 
ter were maintained at the public expense ; and a 
temple to Filial Piety was erected near the prison. 

Pliny, who lived as late as the time of Trajan, 
warmly eulogizes the talents and domestic virtues of 



66 ROMAN WOMEN. 

his wife. He says : " Her taste for literature is in- 
spired by tenderness for me. When I am to speak 
in public, she places herself as near me as possible, 
under the cover of her veil, and listens with delight 
to the praises bestowed upon me. She sings my 
verses, and untaught adapts them to the lute ; love 
is her only instructer." 

Under the emperors, it was more easy to find wo- 
men distinguished for talent than for virtue. Julia, 
the wife of Septimus Severus, was famous for her 
genius and learning, and for the generous patronage 
she bestowed on literature. Julia Mammaea, the mo- 
ther of Alexander Severus, had a mind equally culti- 
vated, with far greater purity of character than her 
namesake. She educated her son for the throne in 
a manner so judicious, that his integrity, virtue, and 
firmness might have effectually checked the tide of 
corruption, had he not met with an untimely fate. 

As learning became fashionable, many acquired it 
merely for display. Juvenal, speaking of pedantic 
ladies, says : " They fall on the praises of Virgil, and 
weigh his merits in the same balance with Homer ; 
they find excuses for Dido's having stabbed herself, and 
determine of the beautiful and the sovereign good." 

The Roman women seem to have been less iron- 
hearted than the Spartans. When the Romans were 
defeated by Hannibal, women waited at the gates of 
the city, for news of the returning army. One, who 
had given up her son for dead, died at the sight of 
him ; and another, having been told that her son was 
slain, died when the report was contradicted* 



EOMAN WOMEN. 67 

The Roman women strongly resembled the Spar- 
tans in the deep and active interest they took in 
public affairs, Upon the death of Brutus, they all 
clad themselves in deep mourning. In the time of 
Brennus, they gave all their golden ornaments to 
ransom the city from the Gauls. In reward for this 
generosity, the senate ordained that they should be 
allowed to ride in chariots at the public games, and 
that funeral orations should thenceforth be pro» 
nounced for them, as well as for distinguished men. 

After the fatal battle of Cannae, the women again 
consecrated all their ornaments to the service of the 
state. But when the triumvirs attempted to tax 
them for the expenses of carrying on a civil war, 
they tried various means to resist the innovation. 
At last, they chose Hortensia for their speaker, and 
went in a body to the market-place, to expostulate 
with the magistrates. The triumvirs, offended at 
their boldness, wished to drive them away ; but the 
populace grew so tumultuous, that it was deemed 
prudent to give the women a hearing. Hortensia 
spoke as follows : " The unhappy women you see 
here pleading for justice, would never have presumed 
to appear in this place, had they not first made use 
of all other means their natural modesty could sug- 
gest. Yet the loss of our fathers, brothers, husbands, 
and children, may sufficiently excuse us ; especially 
when their unhappy deaths are made a pretence for 
our further misfortunes. You say they had offended 
you — but what have we women done, that we must 
be impoverished ? Empire, dignities, and honors 



68 SOMAN WO ME 

are not for us ; why then should we contribute to S 
war, in which we can have no manner of interest ? 
Our mothers did indeed assist the republic in the 
hour of her utmost need ; but they were not con- 
strained to sell their houses and lands for that pur- 
pose ; theirs was the voluntary offering of generosity. 
If the Gauls or the Parthians were encamped on the 
banks of the Tiber, you would find us no less zealous 
in the defence of our country than our mothers were 
before us ; but we are resolved that we will not be 
connected with civil war. Neither Marius, nor Cae- 
sar, nor Pompey, nor even Sylla himself, who first set 
up tyranny in Rome, ever thought of compelling us 
to take part in domestic troubles, Yet you assume 
the glorious title of reformers of the state ! a title 
which will turn to your eternal infamy, if, without 
the least regard to the laws of equity, you persist in 
plundering the lives and fortunes of those who have 
given you no just cause of offence," 

In consequence of this spirited and eloquent speech, 
the number of women taxed was reduced from four- 
teen hundred to four hundred. 

When the deification of emperors and heroes be 
came fashionable at Rome, women soon had their 
statues placed in the temples, and incense burned 
before them ; and these honors r instead of being the 
Teward of virtue* were often bestowed merely to 
please the corrupt and the powerful. Poppaea, the 
wife of Nero, a most thoroughly vicious woman, had 
divine honors paid to her after death ; the emperor 
nimself pronounced her euiogium in the rostrum ; 



ROMAN WOMEN. 69 

'and more perfumes were burned at her funeral, than 
Arabia Felix produced in a year. 

Messalina, the profligate wife of Claudius, governed 
the emperor without control. She appeared with 
him in the senate, placed herself by him on the same 
tribunal in all public ceremonies, gave audience with 
him to princes and ambassadors, and did not even 
abandon him in the courts of justice. 

Heliogabalus made his mother and grandmother 
his colleagues on the throne, and placed them at the 
head of a female senate, which he instituted to regu- 
late all matters of dress and fashion ; this, however, 
lasted but a short time. Extravagance, both in dress 
and style of living, went on increasing to such a de- 
gree that the details are almost incredible. During 
the Carthagenian Avar, when Rome was in great dis- 
tress, an effort was made to check the growth of this 
evil, by a law, which ordained that no woman should 
wear more than half an ounce of gold, have party- 
colored garments, or be carried to any place within a 
mile's distance, unless it was to celebrate some sa- 
cred festivals or solemnities. This created much dis- 
content ; and eighteen years after, the ladies petitioned 
to have it repealed. Cato strongly opposed it, and 
satirized the women for appearing in public to solicit 
votes ; but the tribune Valerius, who presented the 
petition, urged their cause so eloquently, that the 
law was abrogated. 

When the Greek custom was introduced of re- 
clining full length upon their couches, while they ate 
their meals, the ladies for a lon<? time continued tc 



70 ROMAN WOMEN. 

sit upon benches, because they considered the new 
mode inconsistent with modesty ; but during the 
reign of the emperors, they began to imitate the 
men in this particular. In the early ages they were 
forbidden the use of wine ; their relations were al- 
lowed to salute them, as they entered the house, in 
order to discover whether they had drunk it ; and in 
that case their husbands or parents had a right ta 
punish them. But in later times, they indulged 
themselves without restraint. Seneca says : " Wo- 
men pique themselves upon carrying excess in wine 
as far as the most robust men ; like them they pass 
whole nights at table, and holding a cup filled to the 
brim, they glory in defying, and even in surpassing 
them." 

The Romans were in the habit of drinking their 
crowns ; that is to say, the wine in which they had 
been dipped. Cleopatra, perceiving that Antony 
was jealous she had designs upon his life, diverted 
herself with his precautions. At one of their splen- 
did feasts she wore upon her head a crown of flow- 
ers, the extremities of which had been poisoned. 
Antony, being invited to drink the crowns, readily 
consented ; but Cleopatra snatched the cup from his 
lips, saying, " The garland was poisoned. If I could 
live without you, I could easily find means for your 
destruction." 

A love for exciting amusements kept pace with 
other forms of dissipation. Women, not content 
with music and dancing, and the entertainments of 
the theatre, began to delight in horse-races, and the 



ROMAN WOMEN. 71 

contests of wild beasts and gladiators, during which 
scenes of cruelty occurred too shocking to be de- 
scribed. Sometimes they fought on the arena with 
men, at the command of the despotic emperors. The 
celebration of the Bacchanalian mysteries, in which 
women took an active part, were a continuation of 
the most indecent and horrid crimes. In many in- 
stances they danced on the stage entirely without 
clothing, and enjoyed the luxury of public baths pro- 
miscuously with the men, totally disregarding the 
modest regulations of former times. 

Roman husbands, from the earliest times, had the 
power of divorcing their wives whenever they pleas- 
ed ; and afterward the laws were equalized to such a 
degree, that either party had liberty to demand di- 
vorce. If the wife was blameless, she received all 
her dowry and goods ; if culpable, the husband was 
allowed to retain a sixth part for each child ; if she 
had been unfaithful to him, he kept all the dowry 
and marriage-presents, even if he had no children 
by her. Where there was a family, each of the par- 
ties settled a proportionable part of their fortune. 

Notwithstanding the facility of divorce, five hun- 
dred and twenty-one years elapsed without an in- 
stance of it in Rome. Carvilius Ruga was the first 
one who repudiated his wife. He had great affection 
for her, and parted from her merely because she 
brought him no children. Notwithstanding this ex- 
cuse, the Roman citizens were very indignant at the 
proceeding. But divorces gradually became frequent, 
and were made upon the slightest pretexts. When 



72 ROMAN WOMEN. 

Paulus JEmilius repudiated Papiria, his friends said 
to him, " Is she not wise ? Is she not fair ? Is she 
not the mother of fine children ?" In reply, he point- 
ed to his shoe, and said, " Is it not fine ? Is it not 
well made ? Yet none of you know where it pinches 
me." Sulpicius Gallus turned away his wife because 
she appeared bare-headed in public. Sempronius So- 
phus separated from his, because she had whispered 
to a freed-woman. Antistius Vetus did the same be- 
cause his wife went to some public place of amuse- 
ment without his knowledge. Cicero separated 
from Terentia on account of her extravagance and 
imperious temper; he espoused Publilia, a young 
heiress, who had been his ward ; but he repudiated 
her for harsh treatment to his daughter Tullia. Cato 
gave up his wife Martia, by whom he had had seve- 
ral children, that Hortensius might marry her ; and 
when some time after Hortensius died, and left her 
to inherit his great wealth, to the prejudice of his 
own son, Cato retook her. Some men married wo- 
men of tarnished reputation, on purpose to find oppor- 
tunity to divorce them and retain their dowry. * 

Polygamy was at no period allowed ; and even a 
plurality of mistresses was prohibited. Mark Anto- 
ny gave great offence to the Eomans by living with 
Cleopatra during the lifetime of Octavia. 

Papirius was accustomed to attend his father to 
the senate before he assumed the manly robe ; and 
his mother one day inquired what had been debated 
there. The lad replied, a decree had been passed 
that every man should be allowed to ha\e two wives. 



ROMAN WOMEN. 73 

The news spread rapidly ; arid the next day many 
women presented themselves to demand that every 
woman might be allowed two husbands. The sena- 
tors, surprised at such a strange proposition, did not 
know how to account for it, until young Papirius 
explained the mystery. They commended his pru- 
dence in thus evading female curiosity, and ordained 
that no young person, himself excepted, should at- 
tend the debates of the senate. 

As corruption increased, the women made as bad 
use of divorce as the men. Seneca says there were 
some who no longer reckoned the years by the con- 
suls, but by the number of their husbands. St. Je- 
rome speaks with indignation of a man in his time 
who had buried twenty wives, and of a woman who 
had buried twenty-two husbands. When Severus 
ascended the throne, he found no less than three 
thousand prosecutions against faithless wives. Wo- 
men of the highest rank unblushingly proclaimed 
their own licentiousness, and laughed at the appear- 
ance of modesty. A long train of cruel and disgust- 
ing crimes followed this utter abandonment of prin- 
ciple. At one time there was a general conspiracy 
to murder all husbands, in order that the last ap- 
pearance of restraint might be thrown aside. Volup- 
tas had a temple, and was worshipped as a beautiful 
woman, seated on a throne, and treading virtue be- 
neath her feet. 

Augustus, perceiving that facility of divorce, far 
from tending to promote happiness, only increased 
discontent, endeavored to restrain it by penalties 



74 ROMAN WOMEN. 

He likewise made the laws more severe with regard 
to infidelity. The father of a faithless wife might 
put her to death ; and if the husband killed her and 
her gallant, he was not punished by the laws. Fines 
and banishment were likewise frequently resorted to. 

The highest possible encouragement was given to 
matrimony. When the people were numbered, the 
censors asked each citizen, " Upon your faith, have 
you a wife ?" and those who had none were subject 
to a fine. In the tribunals, those who came to make 
oath were asked, " Upon your faith, have you a 
horse ? Have you a wife ?" and unless they could 
answer these questions in the affirmative, they were 
not allowed to give testimony. Those who lived in 
celibacy could not succeed to an inheritance, or le- 
gacy, except of their nearest relations, unless they 
married within one hundred days after the death of 
the testator. Married men were preferred tb all 
public employments ; and the prescribed age was 
dispensed with in their favor, by taking off as many 
years as they had legitimate children. They had 
distinguished places at the theatre and the games, 
were exempted from guardianships, and other bur- 
thensome offices. 

But when the condition of the people required 
laws like these, it was useless to make them. Mere 
external rewards are as feeble a barrier against the 
tumult of the passions, as a bar of sand against a 
rushing stream. The Roman knights loudly de- 
manded that the edicts should be revoked ; and many, 
to avoid the penalties, went through the form of mar- 



ROMAN WOMEN, 75 

riage with mere infants. Augustus, to prevent this 
fraud, forbade any one to contract a girl that was 
not at least ten years old, that the wedding might be 
celebrated two years after. Metellus, the censor, 
said to the people, " If it were possible for us to do 
without wives, we should escape a very great evil ; 
but it is ordained that we cannot live very happily 
either with them or without them." 

Such was the diseased state of society, when 
Christianity came in with its blessed influence, to 
purify the manners, and give the soul its proper em- 
pire over the senses. Many women of the noblest 
and wealthiest families, surrounded by the seductive 
allurements of worldly pleasure, renounced them all, 
for the sake of the strength and consolation they 
found in the words of Jesus. Undismayed by severe 
edicts against the new religion, they appeared before 
the magistrates, and by pronouncing the simple 
words, " I am a Christian," calmly resigned them- 
selves to imprisonment, ignominy, and death. Taught 
by the maxims of the Gospel that it was a duty to 
love and comfort each other, as members of the same 
family, they devoted their lives to the relief of the 
sick, the aged, and the destitute. Beautiful ladies, 
accustomed to all the luxurious appendages of wealth, 
might be seen in the huts of poverty, and the cells 
of disease, performing in ttie kindest manner the du- 
ties of a careful nurse. 

In the worst stages of human society, there will 
ever be seven thousand of Israel who do not bow the 
knee to Baal ; and such a remnant existed in Rome. 



96 ROMAN WOMEN. 

The graceful form of heathen mythology had some 
degree of protecting life within it, so long as it was 
sincerely reverenced ; but the vital spark, that at 
best had glimmered but faintly, was now entirely 
extinguished, and the beautiful form was crumbling 
in corruption and decay. The heart, oppressed with 
a sense of weakness and destitution, called upon the 
understanding for aid, and received only the lonely 
echo of its own wants. At such a moment, Christi- 
anity was embraced with fervor ; and the soul, en- 
raptured with glimpses of its heavenly home, forgot 
that the narrow pathway lay amid worldly duties, 
and worldly temptations. 

The relation of the sexes to each other had be- 
come so gross in its manifested forms, that it was 
difficult to perceive the pure conservative principle 
in its inward essence. Hence, though marriage 
was sanctioned, and solemnized by the most sacred 
forms, it was regarded as a necessary concession 
to human weakness, and perpetual celibacy was con- 
sidered a sublime virtue. This feeling gave rise to 
the retirement of the cloister, and to solitary her- 
mitages in the midst of the desert. St. Jerome is per- 
haps the most eloquent advocate of this ideal purity. 
His writings are full of eulogiums upon Paula, her 
daughter Eustochium, and other Eoman women, 
who embraced Christianity, and spent whole days 
and nights in the study of the Scriptures. 

Women were peculiarly susceptible to the influence 
of doctrines whose very essence is gentleness and 
love. Among the Jews, the number of believing wo- 



NORTHERN WOMEN. 77 

men had been greater than converted men ; the same 
was true of the Romans ; and it is an undoubted fact 
that most nations were brought into Christianity by 
the influence of a believing queen. By such means 
the light of the Gospel gradually spread through 
France, England, part of Germany, Bavaria, Hunga- 
ry, Bohemia, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia. 

The northern nations bore a general resemblance 
to each other. War and hunting were considered 
the only honorable occupations for men, and all other 
employments were left to women and slaves. Even 
the Visigoths, on the coasts of Spain, left their fields 
and flocks to the care of women. They had annual 
meetings, in which those who had shown most skill 
and industry in agriculture, received public ap- 
plause. They were bound by law not to give a wife 
more than the tenth part of their substance. 

The Scandinavian women often accompanied the 
men in plundering excursions, and had all the drudge- 
ry to perform. The wives of the ancient Franks 
were inseparable from their husbands. They lived 
with them in the camp, where the marriages of their 
daughters were celebrated by the soldiers, with 
Scythian, and other warlike dances. A man was 
allowed but one wife, and was rigorously punished 
if he left her to marry another. 

They could put their wives to death for infidelity ; 
and if they happened to kill them without justifiable 
cause, in a moment of anger, the law punished them 
only by a temporary prohibition to bear arms. 

vol. u. 6 



78 NORTHERN WOMEN. 

The ancient German women could not inherit the 
estates of their fathers ; but by subsequent laws 
they were permitted to succeed after males of the 
same degree of kindred. 

Women of the northern nations rarely ate and 
drank with their husbands, but waited upon them at 
their meals, and afterward shared what was left, with 
the children. This custom could not have originat- 
ed in the habit of regarding women as inferior be- 
ings ; for the whole history of the north proves the 
existence of an entirely opposite sentiment. It was 
probably owing, in part, to the circumstance that 
women were too busy in cooking the food, to wish to 
eat at the same time with the men ; and partly, per- 
haps, to the fact that these feasts were generally 
drunken carousals. 

The eastern nations imagine the joys of heaven to 
consist principally in voluptuous love ; but northern 
tribes seem to have believed that they chiefly con- 
sisted in drinking. In the Koran, the dying hero is 
assured that a troop of houries, beautiful as the day, 
w T ill welcome him with kisses, and lead him to fra- 
grant bowers ; but according to the Edda,^ a crowd 
of lovely maidens wait on heroes in the halls of Odin, 
to fill their cups as fast as they can empty them. 

In a state of society so turbulent as that we are 
describing, men had little leisure, and less inclina- 
tion, for the sciences ; women, having better oppor- 
tunities for observation and experience in common 

# The sacred book of the Scandinavians, 



NORTHERN WOMEN. W 

things* acquired great knowledge of simple remedies^ 
and were in fact the only physicians. Their useful- 
ness, virtue, and decorum, procured them an uncom- 
mon degree of respect. The institution of marriage 
was regarded with the utmost reverence? and second 
marriages were forbidden* Tacitus says : " The 
strictest regard to virtue characterizes the Germans? 
and deserves our highest applause. Vice is not made 
the subject of mirth and raillery, nor is fashion plead- 
ed as an excuse for being corrupt, or for corrupting 
others. Good customs and manners avail more 
among these barbarous people, than good laws among 
such as are more refined. It is a great incitement to 
courage, that in battle their separate troops, or co- 
lumns, are not arranged promiscuously? as chance 
directs, but consist of one united clan, with its rela- 
tives. Their dearest pledges are placed in the vici- 
nity, whence may be heard the cries of their women? 
and the wailing of infants, whom each one accounts 
the most sacred witnesses and dearest eulogists of 
his valor. The wounded repair to their wives and 
mothers, who do not hesitate to number their wounds, 
and suck the blood that flows from them. Women 
carry refreshments to those engaged in the contest? 
and encourage them by exhortations. It is said that 
armies, when about to give way, have renewed the 
struggle, moved by the earnest entreaties of the wo- 
men, for whose sake they dreaded captivity much 
more than their own. Those German states which 
were induced to number noble damsels among their 
hostages, were much more effectually bound to obe- 



80 NORTHERN WOMEN, 

dience, than those whose hostages consisted only of 
men. Indeed they deem that something sacred, and 
capable of prophecy, resides within the female breast ; 
nor do they scorn the advice of women, or neglect 
their responses." 

The Goths were likewise remarkable for purity of 
manners. Their laws punished with heavy fines the 
most trifling departure from scrupulous respect to- 
ward women. After the conquest of Rome, they 
were accustomed to say : " Though we punish pro- 
fligacy in our own countrymen, we pardon it in the 
Romans ; because they are by nature and education 
weak, and incapable of reaching to our sublimity of 
virtue." 

Once, when a civil war arose in ancient Gaul, the 
women rushed into the midst of the battle, and per- 
suaded the combatants to be reconciled to each other. 
From that time, the Gauls admitted women to their 
councils of war, and such disputes as arose between 
them and their allies were settled by female negoti- 
ation. Thus in a treaty with Hannibal, it was stipu- 
lated that should any complaints be made against 
the Carthagenians, it should be settled by their gene- 
ral ; but in case of any complaints against the Gauls, 
it should be referred to their women. 

On account of the confusion at times attendant 
upon the best regulated camp, the strictest laws 
were made for the protection of northern women, 
who universally followed the army. The operations 
of the soldiers were from time to time settled in a 
council, of which their wive:- formed a part ; and 



NORTHERN WOMEN- 81 

when in danger of defeat, they feared their dishonor 
more than the swords of the enemy. If a man 
occasioned a woman the loss of her fair fame, he 
was obliged to marry her, if she were his equal in 
rank ; if not, he must divide his fortune with her ; 
and if he would not comply with these conditions, he 
was condemned to death. 

The ancient Britons long submitted patiently to 
the outrageous oppression of the Romans ; but when 
the tyrants scourged their queen Boadicea, and load- 
ed her daughters with insult and abuse, they fought 
with a desperate fury, that seemed resolved on free- 
dom or extermination. The women themselves join- 
ed the army by thousands, and contended with the 
utmost bravery. " They cared not for the loss of 
their own lives," says Holinshed, " so they might die 
avenged." The Britons had priests called druids, 
among whom were women held in the highest vene- 
ration. 

Female deities are found in the mythology of the 
north. The Scythians adored Apia, and the Scandi- 
navians Frigga, the consort of Odin, in whose tem- 
ples sacred fire was kept burning, watched by virgin 
prophetesses. 

In Germany women belonged to the priesthood, 
and inherited the regal dignity. They often admi- 
nistered the government with a degree of ability that 
excited the admiration of neighboring nations. The 
greatest heroes were willing to fight under their ban- 
ners, and be regulated by their councils; for they 



82 NORTHERN WOMEN. 

imagined them to be guided by oracular wisdom, de- 
rived from sources more than human* 

Nothing could exceed the desperation of northern 
women in times of defeat. Proud and jealous of 
their honor, they were willing to suffer any thing to 
avoid the indignities that awaited female captives in 
those days. When the troops of Marius pursued 
the Ambrones, the women met them with swords 
and axes, and slaughtered the fugitives as well as 
their pursuers ; for they deemed that no soldier who 
turned his back upon an enemy ought to survive his 
shame. They laid hold of the Roman shields, caught 
at the swords with their naked hands, and suffered 
themselves to be hacked and hewed to pieces, rather 
than give up one inch of ground. 

When the Romans, a short time after this, pene- 
trated to the camp of the Cimbri, a shocking specta- 
cle presented itself. The women, standing in mourn- 
ing beside the carriages, killed every one that fled, 
even their own fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons. 
They strangled their children, threw them under the 
horses' feet, and killed themselves. One was seen 
slung from the top of a wagon, with a child hanging 
at each foot. Notwithstanding these efforts to de- 
stroy themselves, many were taken prisoners. The 
female captives earnestly begged to be placed among 
the vestal virgins, in hopes that a vow of perpetual 
purity would afford protection to their persons ; but 
the profligate Romans were unworthy to be the mas- 
ters of such noble-minded women, and they sought 
refuge in death. 



NORTHERN WOMEN. 83 

On warlike expeditions, the northern nations were 
generally accompanied by hoary-headed prophetesses, 
clothed in long white robes of linen. In their divina- 
tion they observed the moon, and paid particular 
attention to the flowing and murmuring of streams. 
They likewise believed greatly in the efficacy of 
philtres and love potions. 

Powerful northern nobles generally had some 
venerable sibyl, who directed their councils* Thor- 
biorga, a Danish enchantress, was consulted by earl 
Thorchil concerning a famine and pestilence that 
afflicted Denmark. " A particular seat was prepared 
for the prophetess, raised some steps above the other 
seats, and covered with a cushion stuffed with hens' 
feathers. She was dressed in a gown of green cloth, 
buttoned from top to bottom, had a string of glass 
beads about her neck, and her head covered with the 
skin of a black lamb, lined with the skin of a white 
cat ; her shoes were of calf s skin, with the hair on 
it, tied with thongs, and fastened with brass buttons ; 
her gloves were of white cat's skin, with the hair 
inward ; she wore a Hunlandic girdle, at which hung 
a bag containing her magical instruments ; and she 
supported her feeble limbs on a staff adorned with 
many knobs of brass. As soon as she entered, the 
whole company rose and saluted her in the most re- 
spectful manner. Earl Thorchil advanced, and led 
her to the seat prepared for her. At supper she ate 
only a pottage of goat's milk, and a dish consisting 
of the hearts of various animals. When asked at 
what time she would please to tell the things they 



84 NORTHERN WOMEN. 

desired to know, she replied that she would satisfy 
them fully the next day. Accordingly she put her 
implements of divination in proper order, and com- 
manded a maiden, named Godreda, to sing the magi- 
cal song called Wardlokur ; which she did with so 
clear and sweet a voice, that the whole company 
were ravished with her music ; and the prophetess 
cried out, ' Now I know many things, which I did 
not know before ! This famine and sickness will 
soon fly away, and plenty will return next season. ' 
Then each of the company asked her what they 
pleased, and she told them all they desired to know." 
The women of the northern nations sometimes 
fastened their hair in simple knots on the top of the 
head, but they generally allowed it to flow carelessly 
over their shoulders. A linen garment without 
sleeves, with a cloak made of the skins of such ani- 
mals as their husbands killed in hunting, constituted 
their best finery. They were generally handsome, 
with large clear blue eyes, fair complexions, regular 
features, and majestic forms. Their stately beauty 
became famous in the songs of their bards. Among 
these warlike tribes the passion of love was mingled 
with sentiment, not untinged by veneration. The 
hero would encounter any dangers, to find favor in 
the eyes of her he loved, and no success, however 
brilliant, could compensate for her indifference. Bat- 
tles were often a number of separate duels fought be- 
tween those who had rival claims to some fair lady ; 
and in this way the sword often decided marriage 
and inheritance. 



NORTHERN WOMEN. 85 

When these barbarians subdued Rome, Christianity 
passed from the conquered to the conquerors ; and 
being ingrafted on their previous habits, produced 
that romantic combination of love, religion, and war, 
that characterized the middle ages. 




Womei 



ights in an or. 



MIDDLE AGES. 

As the passion for conquest extended, warlike and 
predatory bands spread over Europe, seizing whatever 
they could take by force of arms. No other right 
but that of the strongest was acknowledged. Hence 
castles and fortifications became necessary ; and the 
weak were glad to submit to any service to obtain 
the protection of the powerful. These circumstances 
were the origin of the feudal system. For a long time, 
women were not allowed to inherit lands, because 
the warlike barons required a military tenant, from 
whom they could claim assistance in time of need ; 



MIDDLE AGES. 87 

out afterward women were allowed to succeed in de- 
fault of male heirs, provided they paid a required 
contribution in money, instead of forces. If they 
married without the consent of their feudal lord, 
they forfeited their inheritance ; and if he chose a 
husband for them, they were compelled to accept 
him. The law required that every heiress under 
sixty years of age should marry, and that her hus- 
band should perform feudal duties. If a baron did 
not provide when a girl was twelve years old, she 
might in open court require him to present three men 
for her selection ; and if he did not comply, he had 
no right to control her choice afterward. She might 
likewise at that age claim from her guardian the un- 
controlled management of her estates. The mother 
was guardian of an infant, and in case of her death, 
the next heir supplied her place. The widow's dow- 
ry was half of her husband's estate for life, and half 
of his chattels. If there was not sufficient to pay 
debts, the widow and creditors divided equally. In 
some places, the feudal lord claimed and enforced 
certain privileges with regard to the daughters of 
his tenants, which are too gross to be described. 
It is true there were beautiful instances of a patri- 
archal relation, where the noble-hearted baron re- 
ceived cheerful and affectionate service, and gave 
ample protection and munificent kindness in return ; 
but these were exceptions. There was a vast amount 
of ignorance, degradation, corruption, and tyranny, 
as there ever must be where one portion of the hu- 



S8 MIDDLE AGES, 

man family are allowed unrestrained power over the 
other. 

For several centuries after the fall of Rome, the 
state of society was exceedingly unsettled and turbu- 
lent. The priests and the powerful barons were 
continually at variance with the kings, neither of 
them being willing to consent to a division of power ; 
and the settlement of the Saracens, or Moors, in 
Spain, produced a spirit of ferocious discord in re- 
ligion. The daughters of princes and nobles lived 
in perpetual danger ; for bold, ambitious men, who 
coveted their kingdoms, or their fortunes, often 
stormed their castles, carried them off, and com- 
pelled them to marry, without pretending to con 
suit their inclinations. Thus the Saxon heiresses 
were divided among the retainers of William the 
Conqueror. The annals of Scotland furnish a cu 
rious instance of these warlike marriages. Sir 
William Scott made an incursion upon the territo- 
ries of Murray of Elibank, and was taken prisoner. 
Murray, in accordance with the barbarous spirit of 
the times, sentenced his enemy to immediate death ; 
but his wife said, " Hout, na, mon ! Would ye hang 
the winsome young laird of Harden, when ye have 
three ill-favored daughters to marry ?" " Right," 
answered the baron of Elibank; " he shall either 
marry our mickle-mouthed Meg, or strap for it." 
The prisoner at first resisted the proposal; but he 
finally preferred " mickle-mouthed Meg" to the hal- 
ter ; and the union thus inauspiciously formed proved 
exceedingly happy. 



MIDDLE AGES. 89 

The father or guardian of the bride generally gave 
her to the bridegroom with these words : " I give 

thee , my daughter, or my ward, to have 

the keeping of the keys of thy house, and one third 
of the money thou art possessed of, or shah possess 
hereafter, and to enjoy all the other rights appointed 
to wives by law." The bridegroom generally be- 
stowed handsome presents on the bride, and she re- 
ceived a dowry proportioned to her father's wealth. 

The young couple were usually escorted to church 
by a troop of friends. The priest crowned them with 
flowers and pronounced a blessing. Maidens were 
married beneath a canopy ; but this custom was not 
observed by widows. 

Among the Franks, marriages were not legal un 
less solemnized in a full court, where a buckler had 
three times been lifted up, and three causes openly 
tried. Soter, the fifth bishop of Rome, is said to 
have been the first who declared marriages illegal 
unless solemnized by a priest. A magnificent feast 
was given in honor of noble marriages, where im- 
mense quantities of wine were drank, and music, 
dancing, and minstrel songs enlivened the scene. 
All the retainers, or vassals, of the feudal lord, par- 
took of the banquet, which of course was spread 
in a spacious hall. The guests sat at table accord- 
ing to their rank; and a huge salt-cellar marked 
the dividing line between the noble and the igno- 
ble. Below the salt-cellar, the food was coarser, and 
the liquors of a cheap kind. 

The unsettled state of society made it exceedingly 



90 MIDDLEAGES. 

difficult to have any places of safe deposit for arti- 
cles of merchandise, resembling the convenient stores 
and shops of modern times. For this reason, fairs 
were held ; and gradually various shows, antic tricks, 
and minstrel songs, were added to the other allure- 
ments of the scene. Women visited these places, 
escorted by fathers or husbands, with a strong band 
of warlike retainers. In the absence of their natu- 
ral protectors, ladies could not venture beyond the 
walls of their castle, even to visit a dying friend, 
without being liable to insult and violence. But in 
a short time every gallant warrior publicly declared 
himself the champion of some fair dame, and pro- 
claimed that any offence given to her, either in his 
presence or absence, would meet with ample revenge 
at his hand. This was the beginning of the remark- 
able institution of chivalry, which has been compared 
to a golden thread running through the dark history 
of the middle ages. Women, who before this period 
had been subject to every species of rudeness and 
neglect, were soon worshipped as deities. Those of 
great beauty, wealth, or rank, of course had the 
greatest number of champions ; but chivalry extend- 
ed itself by degrees, until it embraced for its univer- 
sal object the protection of the weak against the 
strong ; and women of all ages and ranks were treat- 
ed with deference, because their cause was known 
to be the cause of chivalry. No man was admitted 
into the order without the fullest proof of his brave- 
ry, integrity, and virtue. . The least disparaging 
word against the female sex disqualified a knight for 



MIDDLE AGES, 91 

the duties and privileges of his profession. A lady 
having any cause of complaint against a knight 
touched his helmet, or shield, as a sign that she im- 
peached him of crime, and applied to the judges for 
redress. If found guilty of any misdemeanor, the 
culprit was excluded from the order, and could never 
be restored, except by the intercession of the offended 
fair one, and the most solemn promises of amend- 
ment. 

None but women of stainless reputation were in- 
cluded within the pale of chivalry ; the principles of 
the order did not require that the sword should be 
drawn in defence of one who had forfeited her claim 
to respect. The cavaliers, as they travelled, often 
wrote sentences of infamy on the door of a castle 
where a woman of tarnished character resided ; but 
where a lady of unsullied honor dwelt, they paused 
and saluted her most courteously. At public cere- 
monies, a distinction was made in favor of the virtu- 
ous. If a woman of impure character took prece- 
dence of one distinguished for modesty, a cavalier 
boldly advanced and reversed the order, saying : " Be 
not offended that this lady precedes you, for although 
she is not so rich or well allied as you are, yet her 
fame has never been impeached." 

The sons of gentlemen were generally placed with 
some friend, or superior nobleman, to acquire the 
education of a knight, which began as early as seven 
or eight years of age. The boy was required to at- 
tend upon his lord or lady in the hall, to convey 
their messages, and follow them in all their exercises 



62 MIDDLE AGES. 

of war or pastime. From the men he learned to 
leap trenches, cast spears, sustain the shield, and 
walk like a soldier. The ladies of the court gave 
him his moral and intellectual education ; or, in other 
words, they instructed him in his prayers, and the 
maxims of chivalric love. He was taught to regard 
some one lady as his peculiar idol, to whom he was 
to be obedient, courteous, and constant. " While the 
young Jean de Saintre was a page of honor at the 
court of the French king, the dame des Belles Cou- 
sines inquired of him the name of the mistress of his 
heart's affections. The simple youth replied that 
he loved his lady mother, and next to her his sister 
Jacqueline was dear to him. ' Young man,' rejoined 
the lady, ' I am not speaking of the affection due to 
your mother and sister ; I wish to know the name 
of the lady to whom you are attached par amour.' 
The poor boy was confused, and could only reply 
that he loved no one par amour. The dame des 
Belles Cousines charged him with being a traitor to 
the laws of chivalry, and declared that his craven 
spirit was evinced by such an avowal. ' Whence 
sprang the valiancy and knightly feats of Launcelot, 
Tristram, Giron the courteous, and other ornaments 
of the round table V said she : ' whence the grandeur 
of many I have known rise to renown, except from 
the noble desire of maintaining themselves in the 
grace and esteem of the ladies ? Without this spirit- 
stirring sentiment, they must have ever remained in 
the shades of obscurity. And do you, coward valet, 
presume to declare that you possess no sovereign 
lady, and desire to have none V 



MIDDLE AGE S. 08 

H Jean underwent a long scene of persecution, but 
was at last restored to favor by the intercession of 
the ladies of the court. He then named as his mis- 
tress Matheline de Courcy* a child only ten years 
old. ' Matheline is indeed a pretty girl,' replied the 
dame des Belles Cousines ; ' but what profit, what 
honor, what comfort, what aid, what counsel for ad- 
vancing you in chivalrous fame, can you derive from 
such a choice ? You should elect a lady of noble 
blood, who has the ability to advise, and the power 
to assist you ; and you should serve her so truly, 
and love her so loyally, as to compel her to acknow- 
ledge the honorable affection you entertain for her. 
Be assured there is no lady, however cruel and 
haughty she may be, but through long service will 
be induced to acknowledge and reward loyal affec- 
tion with some portion of mercy. By such a course? 
you will gain the praise of worthy knighthood ; till 
then, I would not give an apple for you or your 
achievements. He who loyally serves his lady, will 
not only be blessed at the height of man's felicity in 
this life, but will never fall into those sins that pre- 
vent happiness hereafter. Pride will be entirely 
effaced from the heart of him, who endeavors by hu- 
mility and courtesy to win the grace of a lady. The 
true faith of a lover will defend him from the sins of 
anger, envy, sloth, and gluttony ; and his devotion to 
his mistress renders the thought impossible of his 
conduct ever being stained with the vice of profli- 
gacy.' " 

The service which a lady required of her true 

VOL. II. 7 



94 MIDDLE AGES* 

knight may be inferred from the following lines of 

the old English poet, Gower, who wrote in the days 

of Edward the Third : 

u What thing she bid me do, I do, 
And where she bid me go, I go. 
And when she likes to call, I come, 
I serve, I bow, I look, I lowte, 
My eye folio weth her about. 
What so she will, so will I, 
When she would sit, I kneel by. 
And when she stands, then I will stand, 
And when she taketh her work in hand, 
Of wevying or of embroidrie, 
Then can I not but muse and prie, 
Upon her fingers long and small. 
And if she list to riden out, 
On pilgrimage, or other stead, 
I come, though I be not bid, 
And take her in my arms aloft, 
And set her in her saddle soft, 
And so forth lead her by the bridle, 
For that I would not be idle. 
And if she list to ride in chare, 
And that I may thereof beware, 
Anon 1 shape me to ride, 
Right even by the chare's side, 
And as I may, I speak among, 
And other while I sing a song." 

These gentle services were the least arduous that 
a knight was pledged to perform. The most despe- 
rate battles were fought to restore a lady's rights, to 
avenge a lady's wrongs, or even to gain a lady's 
smile. It was a common maxim of that period that 
he who knew how to break a lance, and did not un- 
derstand how to win a lady, was but half a man. A 
knight without a lady-love was compared to a ship 



MIDDLE AGES. 95 

without a rudder, or a horse without a bridle. " Oh 
that my lady saw me !" was the eager exclamation 
of a gallant knight, as he mounted the wall of a be- 
sieged city, in the pride of successful courage. 

A cavalier, called the Knight of the Swan, rein- 
stated a lady in the possessions of which the duke 
of Saxony had deprived her. During the reign of 
Charles the Sixth of France, the gentlewomen of the 
country laid before the monarch grievous complaints 
of their sufferings and losses from the aggressions of 
powerful lords ; and lamented that chivalry had so 
much degenerated that no knights and squires had 
armed in their defence. This appeal roused the va- 
liant Boucicaut, who gathered a band of chevaliers 
around him, and formed a fraternity for the protec- 
tion of all dames and damsels of noble lineage. The 
device on their shields was a lady in a green field, 
and their motto promised redress to all gentlewomen 
injured in honor or fortune. The gallant Boucicaut 
carried the principle of veneration a little farther 
than was, perhaps, pleasing to the sovereign ladies 
of that romantic period ; for he would not permit 
one of the knights of his banner to look a second 
time at a window where a handsome woman was 
seated. 

In the Spanish order of the Scarf, duties to wo- 
men were more insisted on than in any other order. 
If one of those knights instituted an action against 
the daughter of a brother-knight, no woman would 
consent to be his lady-love, or wife. If he happened 
to meet a lady when riding, it was his duty to alight 



96 MIDDLE AGES. 

from his horse, and tender his service, upon pain of 
losing a month's wages, and the favor of all dames 
and damsels ; and he who hesitated to perform any 
behest from a woman was branded with the title of 
The Discourteous Knight. 

Combats often took place for no other purpose but 
to do credit to the chosen object of a knight's affec- 
tions. This sentiment was frequently a cause of na- 
tional rivalry. During a cessation of hostilities, a 
cavalier would sally forth, and demand whether any 
knight in the opposite host were disposed to do a 
deed of arms for the sake of his lady bright. " Now 
let us see if there be any amorous among you," was 
the usual conclusion of such a challenge, as the ca- 
valier curbed his impetuous steed, and laid his lance 
in rest. Such an invitation was seldom refused ; but 
if it chanced to be so, the bold knight was suffered 
to return in safety ; for it was deemed unchivalric to 
capture or molest an enemy, who thus voluntarily 
placed himself in the power of his opponents. When 
two parties of French and English met accidentally 
near Cherbourg, Sir Launcelot of Lorry s demanded 
a course of jousting with the English knights for his 
lady's sake. The offer was eagerly accepted, and at 
the very first onset Sir John Copeland wounded the 
French cavalier to death. The chronicler says : 
" Every one lamented his fate, for he was a hardy 
knight, young, jolly, and right amorous." 

James the Fourth, of Scotland, was celebrated for 
his romantic chivalry, and graceful bearing at jousts 
and tournaments ; and Louis the Twelfth, of France, 



MIDDLE AGES* 97 

made use of these traits in his character to effect his 
own political purposes. Being deserted by most of 
his allies, he was anxious to renew the old bond of 
friendship between France and Scotland; but this 
was rendered difficult by the fact that England and 
Scotland were at peace, and by the marriage of 
James with the sister of Henry the Eighth. This 
being the posture of political affairs, Louis induced 
his beautiful wife, Anne of Bretagne, to choose the 
king of Scotland for her knight and champion. An 
ambassador was sent to Edinburgh, to present letters 
from the French queen, wherein she assumed the 
style of a high-born damsel in distress, assured James 
that she had suffered much blame in defence of his 
honor, called him her chosen knight, and besought 
him for her sake to advance but three steps into the 
territory of England, with his warlike banners float- 
ing on the breeze. A present of fourteen thousand 
crowns, with a glove and a turquois ring from her 
own hand, accompanied the message. The chivalric 
feelings of James would not permit him to refuse a 
lady's request, especially when that lady was a 
beauty and a queen. The order was obeyed ; and 
the hostilities thus commenced terminated in the 
defeat at Flodden field, so disastrous to Scotland. 

But the good produced by chivalry, in softening 
the character of those rude ages, was no doubt 
greater than the evils arising from its occasional 
excesses. A knight was bound to grant safe conduct 
through his territories to those that requested it, 
even when they came to deprive him of his posses- 



98 MIDDLE AGES. 

sions. When Matilda landed near Arundel, to con- 
tend for the throne of England, Stephen gave her 
honorable escort to the castle of his brother, the ear] 
of Gloucester. It was not considered honorable and 
courteous to take ladies in war. When a town was 
captured, the heralds were wont to proclaim that it 
was the conqueror's will no violence, or disrespect, 
should be offered to any gentlewoman. When Caen 
fell into the hands of the English, in the reign of 
Edward the Third, Sir Thomas Holland protected 
many ladies, damsels, and nuns from outrage ; and 
when the castle of Poys was taken, the English 
knights escorted the daughters of lord Poys to the 
presence of Edward, who gave them a cordial wel- 
come, and ordered them to be safely conducted to a 
town friendly to their family. 

In the wars of the Guelphs and the Ghibbelines, 
the emperor Conrad refused all terms of capitulation 
to the garrison of Winnisberg ; but, like a true knight, 
he granted the request of the women to pass out in 
safety, with such of their most precious effects as 
they could themselves carry. When the gates were 
opened, a long procession of matrons and maidens 
appeared, each bearing a husband, son, father, or 
brother, on her shoulders. As they passed through 
the enemy's lines, all respectfully made way for 
them, while the whole camp rang with shouts of 
applause. 

The sentiment of courtesy was carried so far, that 
when the Normans and English took the castle of 
Du Gueslin, they were indignantly reproved, because 



MIDDLE AGES. 99 

they had transgressed the license of war, by disturb- 
ing the ladies of the castle while they were asleep. 

In those turbulent times, no wonder that courage 
was the quality most dear to a woman's heart, and 
chivalry the idol of her imagination. Ladies endea- 
vored to stifle the first emotions of love, and proudly 
answered their humble suitors, that they must expect 
no favor until they had gained sufficient renown by 
their military exploits. " I should have loved him 
better dead than alive," exclaimed a noble damsel, 
when she heard that her chosen knight had survived 
his honor ; and another, being reproached for loving 
an ugly man, replied, " He is so valiant I have never 
observed his face." 

In some cases, these romantic feelings overcame 
even the stern distinctions of feudal pride. A squire 
of low degree often aspired to the hand of a princess, 
and not unfrequently gained it, by the ardor of his 
passion and the desperate valor of his achievements. 
A young candidate for chivalry said to a high-born 
beauty, " How can I hope to find a damsel of noble 
birth, who will return the affection of a knight un- 
graced by rank, with only his good sword to rely 
upon ?" " And why should you not find her ?" re- 
plied the lady. " Are you not gently born ? Are you 
not a handsome youth ? Have you not eyes to gaze 
on her, ears to hear her, feet to move at her will, body 
and heart to accomplish loyally all her commands ? 
Possessing these qualities, you cannot doubt to ad- 
venture yourself in the service of a lady, however 
exalted her rank." 



100 MIDDLE AGES. 

The martial spirit of women was fostered by the 
honorary titles bestowed on them, and the part they 
were expected to take in the splendid pageants of the 
day. The wife of a knight was often called equitissa, 
or militissa, or chevaliere ; and a high-spirited maid- 
en was called le bel cavalier. In France, women who 
ruled over fiefs could confer knighthood, and had a 
right to make war, decide judicial questions, and 
coin money. At the solemn and imposing ceremony 
of a knight's inauguration, fair ladies attended upon 
him, and delivered him the various pieces of his ar- 
mor. His coat of mail was usually crossed by a 
scarf, which his lady-love had embroidered in the 
seclusion of her own apartment. The crest of the 
helmet was often adorned with ringlets of fair hair, 
a garland of flowers, or a lady's glove, which was 
sometimes set in pearls. But the great scene of 
beauty's triumph was in the gorgeous pageant of the 
tournament. On these occasions women had sove- 
reign power. If any complaint was made against a 
knight, they adjudged his cause without appeal. 
They generally deputed their power to some cava- 
lier, who was called the Knight of Honor. He bore 
at the end of his lance a ribbon, a glove, or some 
other token of woman's favor, and the fiercest war- 
riors obeyed the orders sanctioned by these simple 
emblems. The dames and damsels sometimes offered 
a diamond, a ruby, a sapphire, a silver helmet, or 
richly embossed shield, as the reward of him who 
should prove himself the bravest in this mimic war. 
The laws of chivalry required that a polite preference 



MIDDLE AGES. 101 

should always be given to foreigners ; hence when a 
martial game was held at Smithfield, during the 
reign of Richard the Second, the queen proposed a 
golden crown to the best j ouster, if he were a stran- 
ger, but if an English knight, a rich bracelet was to 
be his reward. " On the morning of the day ap- 
pointed for this merry tournament, there issued out 
of the Tower of London, first threescore coursers 
apparelled for the lists, and on every one a squire of 
honor, riding a soft pace. Then appeared threescore 
ladies of honor, mounted on fair palfreys, each lady 
leading by a chain of silver a knight sheathed in 
jousting harness. The fair and gallant troop, with 
the sound of clarions, trumpets, and other minstrelsy, 
rode along the streets of London, the fronts of the 
housing shining with martial glory in the rich ban- 
ners and tapestries, which hung from the windows." 
The ladies who attended these splendid festivals 
often wore girdles ornamented with gold and silver, 
in imitation of military belts, and playfully wielded 
short light swords, embossed with emblems of love 
and war. The ladies and high-born spectators were 
arranged round the lists in galleries highly adorned. 
The knights were known by the heraldic emblems on 
their shields and banners, and their names were pub- 
licly announced by the heralds. No one was al- 
lowed to tourney, who had blasphemed God, offended 
the ladies, or assailed his adversary without warning. 
Each knight was accompanied by squires, to furnish 
him with arms, adjust his armor, and bring encou- 
raging messages from his lady-love. If the shock of 



102 MIDDLE AGES. 

spears tore from a warrior's helmet the emblem of 
affection which the hand of some fair damsel had 
placed there, she often took a ribbon from her own 
person, and sent it to him with a courteous message. 
As the combat proceeded, the air was rent with the 
names of ladies ; for each knight invoked his mistress 
to assist him, as if she were endowed with superna- 
tural power to guide and strengthen him. 

The older warriors, who stood gazing on the ex- 
citing scene, called out, " On, valiant knights ! Beau- 
tiful eyes behold your deeds !" And when the 
minstrels greeted some bold achievement with loud 
strains of music, the spectators shouted, " Loyauti 
aux dames /" 

When the combats were ended, the heralds pre- 
sented to the ladies those knights who had borne 
themselves most bravely. One, who was elected by 
her companions, was called the Queen of Beauty and 
Love. Before her the warriors knelt down, and re- 
ceived the prizes awarded to their valor. Sometimes 
the victorious knights were allowed to choose the 
fair hand from which they received their reward. 
The Queen of Beauty and Love presented the prize, 
thanked him for the skill in arms which he had that 
day displayed, and wished him success in love ; the 
gallant knight bowed low and replied, " My victory 
was entirely owing to the favor of my mistress, which 
I wore in my helmet." 

When the heavy armor was laid aside, the cavaliers 
entered the banqueting hall, and, amid the flourish of 
trumpets, seated themselves under silken banners* 



MIDDLE AGES. 103 

with their favorite falcons perched above their heads. 
The guests were placed two by two, every knight 
with a lady by his side. To eat from the same 
trencher, or plate, was considered a strong proof of 
affection. In the Komance of Perceforest it is said, 
■ 6 there were eight hundred knights all seated at ta- 
ble, and yet there was not one who had not a dame 
or damsel at his plate." An invitation to a feast, 
from a lady to her chosen knight, is thus described : 

•■ the attendant dwarf she sends ; 

Before the knight the dwarf respectful bends ; 
Kind greeting bears as to his lady's guest, • 
And prays his presence to adorn her feast, 
The knight delays not ; on a couch designed 
With gay magnificence the fair reclined ; 
High o'er her head, on silver columns raised, 
With broidering gems her proud pavilion blazed. 
Herself a paragon in every part, 
Seemed sovereign beauty decked with comeliest art. 
With a sweet smile of condescending pride, 
She seats the courteous Gawaine by her side, 
Scans with assiduous glance each rising wish, 
Feeds from her food the partner of her dish." 

The minstrels tuned their harps to the praise of 
beauty and valor, and after the tables were removed, 
each knight chose his partner for the dance by kiss- 
ing her hand. This custom was introduced into 
England from Italy, or Spain, and still retaining the 
language of the country whence it came, was called 
basciomani. 

The peacock was much honored in the days of 
chivalry. The knights associated them with all 
their ideas of renown, and swore by the peacocks, as 
well as by the ladies, to perform their boldest enter- 



104 MIDDLE AGES, 

prises. The vow of the peacock was sometimes 
made at a festival prepared for the occasion. Be- 
tween the courses of the repast, a troop of ladies 
brought in the splendid bird, on a golden or silver 
dish, roasted, but covered with its feathers. In order 
to do this, it was skinned very carefully previous to 
being cooked, and was then served up in its plu- 
mage, with the brilliant tail feathers spread out ; but 
some preferred to have it covered with leaf gold, 
Just before it was brought into the banqueting hall, 
they crammed the beak with wool, which being 
dipped in inflammable matter and set on fire, made 
the peacock appear to breathe forth flames. 

The hall was adorned with mimic forests, and 
with images of men, animals, &c, expressive of the 
object for which the vow was to be taken. If it had 
relation to wars in defence of religion, a matron, in 
mourning garments, entered the room, and repeated 
a long complaint in verse, concerning the wrongs she 
suffered under the infidel yoke, and the tardiness of 
European knights in coming to her rescue. Some 
knights then advanced with measured tread, to the 
sound of minstrelsy, and presented to the lord of the 
castle the two ladies bearing the noble bird in a 
glittering dish. The ladies besought his protection, 
and he swore by God, the virgin Mary, the ladies, 
and the peacock, that he would make war upon the 
infidels. Every knight in the hall drew his sword 
and repeated the vow. The dish was then placed 
on the table, and the peacock carved in such a man- 
ner that every guest might taste a morsel. A lady- 



MIDDLE AGES. 105 

Pressed in white, came in to thank the assembly, 
presenting twelve maidens, wearing emblematical 
dresses to represent Faith, Charity, Justice, Reason, 
Prudence, Temperance, Strength, Generosity, Mercy, 
Diligence, Hope and Courage. These damsels troop- 
ed round the hall amid the cheers of the company, 
and so the repast concluded. 

" When they had dined, as I you say, 
Lords and ladies went to play ; 
Some to tables, and some to chess 5 
With other games more and less." 

The passion for chess was universal at that period, 
when the favorite forms of recreation were a panto- 
mime of war. The songs of the minstrels, or trou- 
badours, were another source of delightful amuse- 
ment ; and deeds of valor, with maxims how to win 
a lady's favor, were the perpetual theme. To play 
upon the harp, and be able to sing his love in verse, 
were considered as necessary qualifications to the 
knight of chivalry, as the knowledge of wielding his 
sword, or managing his good steed. Kings, princes, 
and knights, renowned for their military exploits, 
became professors of the " gaye science," as it was 
called, and sung to the harp their own verses in 
praise of the beauty they adored. William, count 
of Poitou, the count de Foix, the dauphin of Au- 
vergne, a prince of Orange, Thibault, count of Pro- 
vence and king of Navarre, a king of Sicily, two 
kings of Arragon, and Richard the First of England, 
prided themselves upon their skill in minstrelsy. 
The younger sons and brothers of noble families 



106 MIDDLE AGES, 

very generally devoted themselves to this honorable* 
profession, from which they derived both pleasure 
and profit. They wandered about from court to 
court, and from castle to castle, singing the praises 
of knights and ladies, who rewarded them with smiles, 
and thanks, rich dresses, horses, armor, and gold. 

Bertrand de Born, a celebrated troubadour in the 
time of Henry the Second, says : " The first laws 
of honor are to make war; to tilt at Advent and 
Easter ; and to enrich women with the spoils of the 
conquered." Such sentiments were not remarkable 
at a period when he was considered the most hono- 
rable man, who had burned the greatest number of 
castles, and pillaged his neighbor's estates most 
successfully. Bertrand being out of favor with his 
beautiful mistress, the wife of Talleyrand de Peri- 
gord, in consequence of slanderous stories she had 
heard of him, defends himself in a song very charac- 
teristic of the state of society. He wishes " that he 
may lose his favorite hawk in her first flight ; that a 
falcon may bear her off as she sits upon his wrist, and 
tear her in his sight, if the sound of his lady's voice be 
not dearer to him than all the gifts of love from ano- 
ther. That he may stumble with his shield about 
his neck ; that his helmet may gall his brow ; that 
his bridle may be too long, his stirrups too short ; 
that he may be forced to ride a hard trotting horse, 
and find his groom drunk when he arrives at the 
gate; that the dice may never more be favorable to 
him at the gaming table ; and that he may look on 
like a coward and see his lady wooed and won by 



MIDDLE AGES, 107 

another, if there be a word of truth in the accusa- 
tions of his enemies." 

Some idea of the general ignorance of the times 
may be inferred from the remark of the minstrel, 
Bernard de Ventadour, who, when he sang the praises 
of the princess Eleanor, afterward mother of Richard 
the First, adds, " She approves my writings, and 
she can read them too." 

The story of Geoffroi Rudel is a remarkable illus- 
tration of the fervid and imaginative tone of senti- 
ment that prevailed in those romantic days. He was 
the favorite minstrel of prince Geoffroi Plantagenet, 
the elder brother of Coeur de Lion. While he lived 
at the court of England, admired and beloved by no- 
ble knights and lovely ladies, he listened with de- 
light to descriptions of a certain countess of Tripoli, 
whose beauty, kindness, and virtue, were perpetually 
praised by the crusaders that returned from Holy 
Land. Rudel fell deeply and passionately in love 
with her fame. In one of his songs he says : " I 
adore an object I have never seen. Yet I am con-, 
vinced that among all the Saracen, Jewish, and 
Christian beauties^ none can be compared with her. 
Every night she appears before me in enchanting 
dreams. The beauty I adore shall behold me, for her 
sake, clad in a woollen garment, and with a pilgrim's 
staff." The ardent troubadour actually sailed for 
Palestine- But he became grievously ill during the 
voyage, and was nearly senseless when the vessel 
reached the shores of Tripoli. The countess, being 
informed of the circumstances of his arrival, hastened 



108 MIDDLE AGES. 

to meet him, and offer all the consolation in her 
power. He fixed his eyes upon her with a joyful 
expression, and expired. The countess caused him to 
he magnificently buried among the Knights Templars, 
and erected a monument of porphyry, with an Ara- 
bic inscription, commemorating his genius and his 
love. She then retired to a cloister, and took the 
monastic vow. The last song Rudel had addressed 
to her was transcribed in letters of gold, and she 
wore it continually near her heart. 

Richard de Barbesieu, having broken his vow of 
fidelity to a certain princess, built a cabin of boughs 
in the depth of the forest, and swore never to leave 
his solitude till the offended lady again took him in- 
to favor. Being a favorite minstrel in hall and bow- 
er, the knights and ladies sent him many entreaties 
to return ; and finding their solicitations were all in 
vain, they tried their utmost to appease the anger of 
his lady-love. She at length relented so far as to 
promise him pardon, whenever a hundred brave 
knights, and a hundred beautiful dames, who had 
sworn eternal love to each other, should kneel before 
her, and with clasped hands supplicate mercy for 
their minstrel. A hundred brace of lovers performed 
the required ceremony, and the troubadour was par- 
doned. 

Still more extravagant was the conduct of Pierre 
Vidal, a half-crazed poet, who followed Coeur de Lion 
to the crusade. Having been banished from the pre- 
sence of one lady for his presumptuous boldness, he 
chose for the next object of his amorous effusions a 



MIDDLE AGES. 109 

lady by the name of Louve de Penautier. In her 
honor he assumed the name of Loup, and actually 
disguised himself as a wolf, in order to be hunted by 
a pack of hounds. He was brought back shockingly 
mangled ,* and the lady and her husband took care 
of his wounds, though they laughed at his folly. 

The entire absence of jealousy in the husbands of 
that period is by no means the least remarkable fea- 
ture of the times. They seem to have been proud 
of the protestations of love offered to their wives, 
and liberally rewarded the favored troubadour with 
jewels and gold. Agnes, countess of Foix, was be- 
loved by a French minstrel, who became jealous of 
her. She sent her own confessor to him to complain 
of the injustice of his suspicions, and to swear that 
she was still faithful to him. She required him to 
write and publish the history of their loves in verse. 
Yet this princess was considered virtuous, both by 
her husband and the world. One of the troubadours 
beseeches a priest to grant him dispensation from 
vows of love to a lady whom he loved no longer ; but 
he does not seem to have considered absolution ne- 
cessary during the continuance of his attachment, 
although the object of it was the wife of another. 
Those who know human nature will probably think 
it requires a good deal of faith to believe that im- 
maculate purity was universal. 

The curious mixture of religion with love is ano- 
ther singular characteristic of the middle ages. The 
knight wrote poems in honor of the virgin Mary, 
which cannot easily be distinguished from those ad- 

VOL, II. 8 



110 MIDDLE AGES. 

dressed to the lady of his affections. The trouba- 
dours burned tapers, and caused masses to be said for 
the success of their love; and one of them assures us 
that he devoutly crossed himself with joy and grati- 
tude, every time he beheld his mistress. Peyre de 
Euer devoted himself to a noble Italian lady, who 
was extremely fond of magnificent entertainments ; 
and in order to find favor in her eyes he exhausted 
all his resources in banquets and joustes in her honor. 
The lady, however, could not be persuaded to exer- 
cise her sovereign attribute of mercy; and Ruer 
wandered about the country in the disguise of a pil- 
grim. He arrived at a certain church during the 
holy week, and asked permission to preach to the 
audience. This being granted, he gracefully and 
earnestly recited one of his own love-songs ; for, 
says the chronicle, " he knew nothing better." The 
congregation, supposing it to be a pious invocation 
to the virgin Mary, or the saints, were much affect- 
ed ; and when he held out his hat for the customary 
alms, it was heaped with silver. The minstrel cast 
aside his pilgrim weeds and in a splendid dress pre- 
sented himself before his lady-love, with a new song 
in her praise ; and she, overcome with such a proof 
of constancy, bestowed many caresses on the wan- 
dering troubadour. 

In Spain, a certain company, called Disciplinari- 
ans, went through the streets every Good Friday, 
with sugar-loaf caps, white gloves and shoes, and 
sleeves tied with ribbons of such a color as their 
ladies particularly admired. They carried whips of 



MIDDLE AGES. Ill 

small cords, with bits of glass fastened on the ends 7 
and when they met a handsome woman, they began 
to whip themselves with all violence, insomuch that 
the blood spirted on her robes ; for which honor she 
courteously thanked them. When a lover arrived 
opposite the balcony of his mistress, he scourged 
himself with redoubled fury, while she looked on 
with proud complacency, and perhaps rewarded his 
sufferings with a gracious smile. 

Ladies of rank entered the lists of poetry in com- 
petition with troubadours of the other sex. Among 
these were the countess of Champagne, countess of 
Provence, dame Castelossa, the comtesse de Die, &c. 
The last-mentioned was beloved by the chevalier 
d'Adhemar, whose courage and magnanimity she 
celebrated in verses, which the favored knight always 
carried in his bosom ; and not unfrequently he enter- 
tained a company by singing his lady's songs in 
praise of himself. He died of grief, in consequence 
of a false report of her inconstancy. The young 
comtesse took the veil immediately, and died the 
same year in the convent of St. Honore. Her mo- 
ther buried her with her lover, and erected a superb 
monument to the memory of both. The countess of 
Champagne was much celebrated for the manner in 
which she presided at one of the Courts of Love. 
These courts were composed of ladies summoned to 
meet together, for the purpose of discussing, in the 
most formal and serious manner, " beautiful and sub- 
tle questions of love." They decided the precise 
amount of inconstancy which a lady might forgive, 



112 MIDDLE AGES. 

without lowering her own dignity, provided her lover 
made certain supplications, and performed certain 
penances ; they took it into solemn consideration 
whether a lover was justified, under any circum- 
stances, in expressing the slightest doubt of his lady's 
fidelity ; they laid down definite rules, and ceremo- 
nials of behavior, to be observed by those who wished 
to be beloved ; and gravely discussed the question 
whether sentiment, or sight, the heart, or the eyes, 
contributed most powerfully to inspire affection. 

A young maiden in those days was educated, like 
her brother, in the castle of some knight or baron, hex 
father's friend ; and her duties, like his, were mostly 
those of personal attendance. She assisted in dress 
ing her lady, and sought by music and conversation 
to beguile her lonely hours. Their learning, in gene- 
ral, was confined to recipes for cooking, simple medi- 
cines, needle-work, the ceremonials of chivalry, and 
the prayers of the church. Beading and writing were 
rare attainments, both with men and women. 

The rules for behavior were exceedingly precise and 
ceremonious. Maidens were taught that it was un- 
seemly to turn their heads round after the manner o( 
a crane, and were exhorted rather to imitate the beau- 
tiful and timid hare, which looks straight forward. 
If necessary to look aside, they were told to move 
the head and body together, that their deportment 
might appear dignified. Simplicity of dress was 
likewise inculcated, except on festival occasions ; 
and that respect might be shown to religion as well 
as chivalry, they were commanded to wear their 



MIDDLE AGES. 113 

richest apparel to church. Modesty was strongly- 
urged. Every bard had a story of the daughter of 
some knight, who displayed her person so freely that 
her intended husband preferred her more modest, 
though less beautiful, sister. The ferocious pride of 
feudal power was softened by maxims of courtesy 
toward those of inferior rank. A noble lady once 
took off her hood and made respectful obeisance to a 
mechanic. One of her friends exclaimed, " Why, no- 
ble dame, you have taken off your hood to a tailor !" 
" Yes," she replied ; " and I would rather have doffed 
it to him, than a gentleman ;" and those who heard 
her answer, thought she had done right well. 

All the domestic economy of the castle was ar- 
ranged by the maiden attendants, and they were early 
instructed in the mysteries of the healing art. The 
wounds of husbands and lovers were in those days 
cured by the fair hand of woman. Spenser says : 

" Into the woods thenceforth in haste she went, 
To seek for herbs that mote him remedy ; 
For she of herbs had great intendiment, 
Taught of the nymph from whom her infancy 
Her nourced had in true nobility." 

A knowledge of surgery was likewise a necessary 
feminine accomplishment. 

" So prospered the sweet lass, her strength alone 
Thrust deftly back the dislocated bone." 

Even as late as the days of queen Elizabeth, some of 
the ladies of her court are praised for their skill in 
surgery. 

When men rode forth to hunt or hawk, they were 



114 MIDDLE AGES. 

generally accompanied by ladies, for whom a gentler 
species of falcons, called sparrow-hawks, were train- 
ed. The birds were gallantly bedight with silver 
bells, and it was the duty of every gallant knight to 
attend on his lady, to let the falcon loose at the pro- 
per moment, to animate it by his cries, to take from 
its talons the prey it seized, and then replace it 
respectfully on her hand. John of Salisbury, who 
wrote in the thirteenth century, says that women 
even excelled men in the knowledge and practice of 
falconry. Julian Berners, prioress of a nunnery in 
Sopewell, published, in 1481, a curious book full of 
directions concerning heraldry and hawking ; for 
which reason she was called by cotemporaries " a 
Minerva in her studies, and a Diana in her diver- 
sions." Some old English engravings represent la- 
dies followed by dogs, running on foot, with hawks 
on their fists ; and upon old monuments it is common 
to see the image of a woman, with a hawk perched 
near her, and a greyhound at her feet. Queen Eli- 
zabeth was fond both of hunting and falconry, and 
had no objection to the unfeminine amusement of 
bear-baiting. Even when she was sixty years old, 
Sir Walter Raleigh, in allusion to her sylvan sports, 
compares her and her maids of honor, in their stiff 
ruffs and fardingales, to the goddess Diana and her 
graceful nymphs. Tournaments and masks conti- 
nued to be favorite amusements during the reign of 
the maiden queen, though the last rays of chivalry's 
declining sun were then sinking to rise no more. 
Elizabeth, who had all the petitesse of a vain woman 



MIDDLE A&ES, US' 

united with the cold caution of an artful man, always 
delivered the prizes herself ; for she could not endure 
that one younger and fairer should personate the 
Queen of Love and Beauty. The gallantry of knight- 
hood still characterized her courtiers. When she 
dropped her glove at a tournament, the earl of Cum- 
berland picked it up, and was graciously requested 
to retain it. With the true spirit of chivalry, he 
caused it to be set in diamonds, and on festival occa- 
sions always wore it in his high-crowned hat, which 
had at that period superseded the helmet. 

One singular custom that prevailed in England in 
the old time deserves to be recorded for its oddity* 
Sir Philip Somerville, in the reign of Edward the 
Third, left the manor of Whichnour to the earl of 
Lancaster, on condition that he should at all seasons 
of the year, except during Lent, be ready to deliver a 
flitch of bacon to any man and woman, who swore 
they had been married a year and a day without 
once repenting it ; and that if they were again single, 
they would choose each other again, in preference to 
all the universe. The oath, taken in presence of 
witnesses, was as follows : " I A wedded my wife B, 
and syth I had her in my keepying and at my wylle, 
by a yeare and a daye after our marriage, I would 
not have changed for none other, richer ne pourer, ne 
for none other descended of gretter lynage, sleeping 
ne waking, at noo tyme. And if the said B were 
sole and I sole, I would take her to be my wife before 
all the wymen of the worlde, of what condytions so- 
ever they may be, good or evyl, as help me God and 
lis seyntys, and this flesh and all fleshes." 



116 MIDDLE AGES, 

It is remarkable that during the middle ages, wheti 
profound homage was paid to women, as to things 
divine, a life closely secluded from their society was 
deemed the surest road to heaven. The eucharist 
was considered too holy to be touched by female 
fingers, and they were required to put a white linen 
glove upon the hand when they received it. The 
emperor Honorius banished Jovinian because he 
maintained that a man who lived with a wife might 
be saved, provided he obeyed the laws of piety and 
virtue ; and Edward the Confessor was sainted for 
dying unmarried. Celibacy was expressly enjoined 
upon the clergy, and both priests and deacons were 
degraded from office for disobedience to this edict. 
In France it was carried to such an extent, that the 
barons had power to make slaves of any children of 
the married clergy. St. Dunstan, so famous for his 
abhorrence of women, introduced celibacy of clergy 
into England, and, with the consent of king Edgar, 
exhorted the married priests to put away their wives, 
under the penalty of being degraded from office, and 
deprived of their livings. From the ungallant cha- 
racter of St. Dunstan arose a superstitious custom, 
of which some traces remain in Great Britain even 
to the present day. It was deemed that if a bridal 
couple drank from St. Dunstan's well, on the day of 
their marriage, the first one who tasted the water 
would govern the other for life. A bridegroom, who 
was very desirous to have the authority in his own 
hands, repaired to the well as soon as his wedding 
day dawned ; and after the marriage ceremony was 



MIDDLE AGES. 117 

over, he boasted to his bride that he had drank of the 
water sooner than she could possibly have done. 
" Ah, my friend," replied she, laughing, " you have 
not circumvented a woman's wit ; for I brought some 
of the water from the well, in a vial, the night 
before*" 

When knights formed themselves into religious 
orders, to fight in defence of the holy sepulchre, they 
were required to take a vow of perpetual chastity, 
poverty, and obedience. A Knight TJ'emplar was 
forbidden to kiss maid, wife, or widow, not even 
excepting his mother and his sisters ; and was not 
permitted to adorn his helmet with tokens either 
of nobility or love. But the principles of these 
pious knights yielded to the slightest pressure of 
circumstances. Men of large fortune paid little at- 
tention to their vow of poverty ; connubial fidelity 
was substituted for perpetual celibacy ; and even in 
this improved form, the history of the crusades gives 
us small reason to suppose that the promise was 
considered binding. 

Such a project as that of the crusades naturally 
took powerful hold of the imaginations of women 
educated amid the splendid pageants of war and reli- 
gion, and accustomed to the continual combination 
of things in their nature so discordant. Many ac- 
companied their lovers and husbands to the Holy 
Land, and, after performing the most romantic ex- 
ploits, died beside them on the field of battle. Whole 
squadrons of women sometimes took arms in defence 
of the holy cross. Those that accompanied the em- 



118 MIDDLE AGES* 

peror Conrad were remarkable for the splendor of 
their military dresses. Their leader was called 
" the golden-footed dame." 

The ardor with which chivalry was embraced by 
all the principal nations of Europe, and the powerful 
hold it still retains on the imagination, notwithstand- 
ing the detestable pride and tyranny of those gallant 
nobles, is to be attributed to the sacred principles on 
which the institution was originally founded ; viz. 
the chaste union of the sexes, and the forgetfulness 
of self in the effort to do good to others. But chi- 
valry gradually degenerated from its original purity, 
and became a ridiculous mania for renown. Knight- 
hood was no longer the reward of high-minded vir- 
tue, but was bestowed on any man who had wealth 
or power to obtain it for his own selfish purposes. 
The profligacy of the troubadours was open and fla- 
grant ; the crusaders, who made a pilgrimage to the 
holy sepulchre in expiation of their sins, fearfully 
added to the list on their way ; poor knights, who 
had no money to pay their retainers, made no scruple 
of obtaining it by robbery and violence, and wandered 
about in quest of adventures, letting out their swords 
to richer brethren ; women departed from the modes- 
ty which had procured them homage, and bestowed 
their smiles so indiscriminately that they lost their 
value. Yet, as the affectation of any thing is al- 
ways more excessive than the reality, the exploits of 
the knights during the rapid decline of chivalry were 
more outrageously fantastical than they had ever 
been. It was common for a cavalier to post himself 



MIDDLE AGES. 119 

m some very public place, and fight every gentleman 
who passed, unless he instantly acknowledged that 
the lady of his affections was the handsomest and 
most virtuous lady in the world ; and if, as often 
happened, he was met by one as mad as himself, 
who insisted upon maintaining the superior charms 
of his dulcinea, a deadly combat ensued. At the 
beginning of the fourteenth century, a society of la- 
dies and gentlemen was formed at Poictou, called the 
Penitents of Love. In order to show that love could 
effect the strangest metamorphoses, they covered 
themselves with furred mantles, and sat before large 
fires, in the heat of summer, while in winter they 
wore the slightest possible covering. Thus chivalry 
became an absurd and disgusting mockery, and was 
finally laughed out of the world by the witty Cervan- 
tes. But though the form became grotesque, and 
died in a state of frenzy, the important use performed 
by the spirit of true chivalry ought not to be forgot- 
ten. It stood in the place of laws, when laws could 
not have been enforced, and it raised woman to a 
moral rank in society, unknown to the most refined 
nations of antiquity — a rank she can never entirely 
lose, and from which her present comparative freedom 
is derived. It taught Francis the First, that most 
chivalrous of all monarchs, to lay the foundation of 
a beautiful social system by introducing the wives 
and daughters of his nobles at court, where none but 
bearded men had previously been seen. " A court 
without ladies," said he, " is a year without a spring* 
or a spring without roses," 



120 MIDDLE AGES. 

The Mohammedan religion, which debases woman 
into a machine, and regards love as a merely sensual 
passion, was introduced into the East about the same 
time that chivalry arose in the West, to exalt women 
into deities, and chasten passion with the purity of 
sentiment. 

The military spirit induced by chivalry continued 
in full force through the whole of its existence, and 
survived its origin. Philippa, wife of Edward the 
Third, was the principal cause of the victory gained 
over the Scots at Neville Cross. In the absence of 
her husband, she rode among the troops, and exhorted 
them in the name of God to be of good heart and 
courage, promising to reward them better than if her 
lord the king were himself in the field. At the sur- 
render of Calais, she displayed a better quality than 
courage. Her incensed husband demanded that six 
of the principal inhabitants should be put to death ; 
and six patriotic citizens voluntarily offered their 
lives to appease the conqueror. When these heroic 
men knelt at his feet, to deliver the keys of the city, 
the queen likewise knelt, and begged their lives as a 
boon to her. Her tears prevailed ; and the grateful 
inhabitants of Calais exclaimed, " Edward conquers 
cities, but Philippa conquers hearts !" 

Jane, countess of Mountfort, who lived at the same 
period, and was a lineal descendant of the German 
women described by Tacitus, possessed a large share 
of manly courage. While her husband was detained 
in prison, she defended his right to the duchy of Bre- 
tagne against Charles of Blois. She visited all the 



MIDDLE AGES. 121 

principal towns and fortresses, and exhorted the 
troops to courage, in the name of herself and her in- 
fant son. When besieged in the strong town of Hen- 
neb on, she herself rode through the streets clad in 
mail, and mounted on a goodly steed ; and her cheer- 
ing smiles stimulated valor, even when her voice was 
drowned in the din of battle. Perceiving that the 
enemy's camp was deserted, she seized a spear, and, 
accompanied by three hundred of her best knights, 
rode into the midst of it, and set the tents on fire, 
Her return being cut off by the French troops, she 
took the road to Brest, and for five days the good 
soldiers of Hennebon were ignorant of her fate ; but 
on the sixth, she returned, with her golden banners 
glittering in the sun, and surrounded by five hundred 
lances, which her beauty and bravery had drawn 
around her. Afterward, she went to England, to so- 
licit succor from Edward the Third. Eeturning with 
a considerable fleet, she was met by an enemy ; and 
it is recorded that " the countess on that day was 
worth the bravest knight ; she had the heart of a 
lion, and, with a sharp glaive in her hand, she fought 
fiercely." 

In 1338, the countess of March, called Black Ag- 
nes, from the color of her eyes and hair, resisted with 
extraordinary bravery and success the earl of Salis- 
bury, who besieged her in the castle of Dunbar, 
during the absence of her husband. 

In Italy, the prince of Romagna intrusted the de- 
fence of Cesena to his wife, Marzia, while he himself 
maintained a more important post. The noble ma- 



122 MIDDLE AGES. 

tron donned the casque and cuirass, which she never 
laid aside, night or day ; and when, in a moment of 
extreme peril, her father entreatedlier to surrender, 
she replied, " My husband has given me a duty to 
perform, and I must obey his command." Though 
unable to obtain the victory, her bravery and skill 
secured a very favorable treaty. 

When Regner Lodbrog waged war against Fro, 
king of Sweden, a young Norwegian girl, named 
Lagertha, greatly assisted him in his victory. Reg- 
ner became in love with her, and made her his wife ; 
but he soon after deserted her for another. Lagertha 
lived in the utmost retirement, until she heard that 
her husband was deserted by his friends, and placed 
in danger by rebellious subjects ; then the generous 
wife forgot her own injuries, hastened to his relief, 
and was again victorious. 

Avilda, daughter of the king of Gothland, scoured 
the seas with a powerful fleet ; and king Sigar, who 
found she was not to be won in the usual manner, 
gained her heart by fitting out a fleet, and engaging 
in a furious battle with her for two days without 
intermission. 

Marguerite of France, wife of St. Louis, while be- 
sieged by the Turks in Damietta, during the captivity 
of the king her husband, gave birth to a son, whom 
she named Tristan, in commemoration of her misfor- 
tunes. In this helpless situation, hearing that the 
crusaders were about to capitulate with the enemy 
she summoned the knights to her apartment, and the 
words she uttered stirred their spirits like the tones 



MIDDLE AGES. 123 

of a trumpet. Her address has been immortalized in 
such beautiful verse, by Mrs. Hemans, that I cannot 
forbear quoting some of the stanzas : 

" The honor of the lily- 
Is in your hands to keep. 

And the Banner of the Cross, for Him 
Who died on Calvary's steep : 

And the city which for Christian prayer 
Hath heard the holy bell — 

And is it these your hearts would yield 
To the goodless Infidel ? 

" Then bring me here a breastplate, 

And a helm, before ye fly, 
And I will gird my woman's form, 

And on the ramparts die ! 
And the boy whom I have borne for woe. 

But never for disgrace, 
Shall go within mine arms to death 

Meet for his royal race. 

11 Look on him as he slumbers 

In the shadow of the Lance ! 
Then go, and with the Cross forsake 

The princely Babe of France ! 
But tell your homes ye left one heart 

To perish undefiled ; 
A woman and a queen, to guard 

Her honor and her child !" 

No wonder such an appeal met with a thrilling 



response : 



" We are thy warriors, lady ! 

True to the Cross and thee ! 
The spirit of thy kindling words 

On every sword shall be ! 
Rest, with thy fair child on thy breast, 

Rest, we will guard thee well • 
St. Dennis for the Lily-flower. 

And the Christian citadel !" 



124 CENTURIES SUCCEEDING 

Joan of Arc, born of humble parentage, but strong 
in military courage, and the enthusiasm of prophecy, 
appeared among the discouraged troops of France, 
mounted on a milk-white steed, with snowy plumes 
nodding over her helmet, and in the name of God 
urged them on to victory. Battle after battle was 
gained by the consecrated maiden ; and history weeps 
to record that she at last fell a victim to the cruelty 
of the English and the base ingratitude of the French. 

Margaret of Anjou twice delivered her husband 
from prison and placed him on the English throne ; 
nor did she yield to an overpowering torrent of 
misfortunes, till she had decided twelve battles in 
person. 

During the reign of Anne of Austria, the French 
women often appeared at the head of political fac- 
tions, wearing scarfs that designated the party to 
which they belonged. Swords and harps, violins 
and cuirasses, were seen together in the same saloon. 
There was a regiment created under the name of 
Mademoiselle ; and when Monsieur wrote to the 
ladies who attended his daughter to Orleans, the 
letter was directed as follows : " A Mesdames, les 
Comtesses Marechales de camp, dans V armee de ma 
fille, contre le Mazarin" The gift of a bracelet, or 
glove, was as much valued by the courteous gentlemen 
of France, as it had been by the knights of chivalry. 
M. de Chatillon wore the garter of his beautiful mis- 
tress on his arm ; and when the Due de Bellegarde 
went to take command of the army, he besought the 
queen to honor him so far as to touch the hilt of his 



THE MIDDLE AGE. 125 

sword. The Due de la Rochefoucault says of Ma- 
dam de Longueville : 

" Pour meriter son cceur, pour plaire a ses beaux yeux, 
Xaifait la guerre aux Roix ; je V aurois fait aux Dieux." 

During the reign of James the Second, a singular 
instance of female heroism occurred in Scotland. 
Sir John Cochrane being condemned to be hung for 
joining in Argyle's rebellion, his daughter twice dis- 
guised herself and robbed the mail that brought his 
death-warrant. In the mean time his pardon was 
obtained from the king. 

A spirit of superstitious devotion manifested itself 
in those times to an extent quite as remarkable as 
the military enthusiasm. No guest was so welcome 
in bower and hall as the pilgrim returned from the 
Holy Land, with many a tale to tell of victories 
gained by Knights of the Holy Cross over the worth- 
less infidel. The troubadours, after a youth spent in 
love and minstrelsy, almost invariably retired to the 
silence of the cloister. Noble and beautiful ladies, 
upon the slightest disgust with life, or remorse of 
conscience, took the vow that separated them forever 
from the world, and pledged them to perpetual chas- 
tity and poverty. When this vow was taken, all 
jewels and rich garments were laid aside, and the 
head shorn of its beautiful ornament of hair. The 
building in which they secluded themselves was 
guarded by massive walls, and iron-grated windows. 
The rich and the noble seldom died without leaving 
something to endow a convent. At last, they be- 
came powerful instruments of oppression; for if a 

VOL. II. 9 



126 CENTURIES SUCCEEDING 

nobleman had numerous daughters, and wished, in 
the pride of his heart, to centre his wealth upon one 
only, he could compel all the others to take the veil ; 
if they were not sufficiently beautiful to aid his am- 
bitious views, or dared to form an attachment con- 
trary to his wishes the same fate awaited them. If 
a nun violated her vow of chastity, she suffered a 
penalty as severe as that imposed on the vestal vir- 
gins ; being placed in an opening of the walls, which 
was afterwards bricked up, and thus left to perish 
slowly with hunger. The priests, with some honor- 
able exceptions, were not remarkable for purity, and 
as the nature of their office gave them free ingress to 
the nunneries, the results took place which might 
have been expected from people bound by unnatural 
vows. The licentiousness of the priesthood gradu- 
ally made the holy orders a by-word and a reproach, 
and prepared the way for the stern reformers of the 
sixteenth century. 

But the influence of convents was far from being 
all evil. Their gates were ever open to the sick, the 
wounded, and the destitute ; in the most turbulent 
times, the sweet charities of life there found a kindly 
nursery; and many a young mind was trained to 
virtue and learning, under the fostering care of some 
worthy abbess. 

As chivalry declined, men began to take pride in 
literature, instead of leaving all " book learning to 
the meaner folk ;" and women, of course, assumed a 
corresponding character. The merits of Aristotle 
and Plato divided the attention of the learned. The 



THE MIDDLE AGE. 127 

Universities declared in favor of Aristotle ; but poets, 
lovers, and women, were enamored of the ethereal 
Plato. Women preached in public, supported con- 
troversies, published and defended theses, filled the 
chairs of philosophy and law, harangued the popes 
in Latin, wrote Greek, and read Hebrew. Nuns 
wrote poetry, women of rank became divines, and 
young girls publicly exhorted Christian princes to 
take up arms for the recovery of the holy sepulchre. 

Hypatia, daughter of Theon of Alexandria, is said 
to have exceeded her father in astronomy, and well 
understood other parts of philosophy. She succeed- 
ed her father in the government of the Platonic 
school, and filled with reputation a seat where many 
celebrated philosophers had taught. The people 
regarded her as an oracle, and magistrates consulted 
her in all important cases. No reproach was ever 
uttered against the perfect purity of her manners. 
She was unembarrassed in large assemblies of men, 
because their admiration was tempered with the most 
scrupulous respect. 

In the thirteenth century, a young lady of Bolog- 
na, who had great beauty of person, pronounced a 
Latin funeral oration at the age of twenty-three. At 
twenty- six she took the degree of doctor of laws, and 
began publicly to expound the laws of Justinian. At 
thirty, she was elevated to a professor's chair, and 
taught the law to a crowd of scholars from all 
nations. 

Marguerite Clotilde cle Surville, in the early part 
of the fifteenth century, wrote poetry remarkable for 



123 CENTURIES SUCCEEDING 

its freshness and simplicity, and for the tender affec* 
tion toward her husband and child which breathes on 
every page. After her husband's death, she did bet- 
ter than to enter a nunnery, according to the fashion 
of the times — she lived unmarried, and devoted her- 
self to the education of her son. When some of her 
verses were repeated to Margaret of Scotland, the 
first wife of Louis the Eleventh, she sent her a wreath 
of laurel, surmounted with a bouquet of daisies, (in 
French called marguerites,) in which the flowers 
were of gold, and the leaves silver. It bore this in- 
scription : " Marguerite aV Ecosse a Marguerite d* 
Helicon." 

Italy produced many learned and gifted women, 
among whom perhaps none was more celebrated than 
Victoria Colonna, marchioness of Pescara. She was 
passionately fond of poetry, and being early left to 
mourn the loss of a husband dearly beloved, she 
spent the remainder of her life amid the quiet pur- 
suits of literature. Nearly all her sonnets bear allu- 
sion to her husband. In one of these she says : 
" Since I was not permitted to be the mother of 
sons, to inherit their father's glory, I may at least, 
by uniting my name with his in verse, become the 
mother of his illustrious deeds and lofty fame." Ari- 
osto says that the marquis of Pescara was more to be 
envied for the strains in which his gifted wife ele- 
vated him above cotemporary heroes, than Achilles, 
whose warlike deeds were sung by Homer. 

In Spain, Isabella of Rosera converted Jews by her 
eloquent preaching, and commented upon the learned 
Scotu? before cardinals nnd archhJshons. 



I'HE MIDDLE AGE', 120 

In England, Lady Jane Grey had great fame as a 
scholar. She was found poring over Plato with de- 
light, while other members of her family were en- 
gaged in diversions ; and the night before the 
blameless creature was executed for the fault of her 
ambitious parents* she wrote to her sister in Greek? 
exhorting her to live and die in the true faith of the 
reformers. 

Roger Ascham said of his royal pupil, Elizabeth;, 
" Yea, I believe that, besides her perfect readiness in 
Latin, Italian, French, and Spanish, she readeth 
more Greek every day than some prebendary of this 
church doth Latin in a whole week." 

The eldest daughter of Sir Thomas More had 
learning equalled only by her virtues. She corre- 
sponded with the celebrated Erasmus, who styled 
her " the ornament of Britain." 

Mary, queen of Scots, could write and speak six 
languages. She made graceful verses in French; 
and, when very young, delivered a Latin oration to 
the court of France, to prove that there was nothing 
unfeminine in the pursuit of letters. 

The spirit of chivalry blazed forth anew in the 
literature of that period. Many pens were employed 
in framing the panegyrics of illustrious women ; and 
Italy was peculiarly distinguished for these perform- 
ances. Boccacio set the example in his Panegyric 
de Claris Mulieribus. After this, innumerable writers 
published eulogies on the celebrated women of all 
nations. These volumes paved the way for the dis- 
cussion of the merits of women in general ; and the 



130 CENTURIES SUCCEEDING 

pre-eminence of female character over that of men, 
was proposed for a question in public debate. In 
this discussion, Cornelius Agrippa boldly asserted 
the superiority of women. 

Peter Paul de Ribera, an Italian, published a work 
entitled, " The immortal Triumphs and heroic Enter- 
prises of eight hundred and forty-five Women." But 
even this ample panegyric is less singular than a 
publication at Venice, in 1555, called " The Temple 
of the divine Signora Joan of Arragon ; erected in 
her honor by all the greatest wits, and in all the 
principal languages of the world." The society 
which conceived this method of deification, disputed 
upon one point only ; viz. whether Joan of Arragon 
should possess the honors of the temple alone, or 
share them with her celebrated sister, the marchio- 
ness de Gaust. After mature deliberation, it was 
decided that two sovereigns ought not to sit on the 
same throne ; it was therefore resolved by the aca- 
demy, " that the marchioness have separate worship, 
and Joan of Arragon remain in the sole and exclusive 
possession of her altars." Latin, Greek, Italian, 
French, Spanish, Sclavonian, Hebrew, Chaldaic, and 
many other languages, were combined in this singu- 
lar monument to woman's fame. 

In the midst of all this adulation, women were not 
backward in vindicating their own claims. Several 
Italian ladies wrote books to prove the comparative 
inferiority of men ; and the French women espoused 
the cause with equal zeal. The most conspicuous 
among them was Margaret of Navarre, the first wife 



THE MIDDLE AGE. . 131 

of Henry the Fourth, who undertook to prove that 
" woman is much superior to man." This princess^ 
like Elizabeth of England, made use of expressions 
so gross, that we in modern times can hardly realize 
they came from a woman. 

About the commencement of the sixteenth century, 
witches began to be persecuted, abused, and despised^ 
instead of being treated with the reverence of more 
ancient times. Either from association with the idea 
of the wrinkled sibyl of CumsB, or from some other 
less obvious cause, every woman who was old and 
haggard was in great danger of being considered a 
witch. Every unaccountable event in the neighbor- 
hood was charged to her ; and any explanations she 
attempted to make were regarded as the cunning 
instigations of the devil. If a new disease appeared 
among cattle, or a blight rested on the fields, or a 
child had a singular kind of fit, or a neighbor had the 
nightmare, it was immediately attributed to the influ- 
ence of some old dame, who at midnight, when honest 
folks were sleeping, left her mortal body and went ca- 
reering through the air on a broomstick, accompanied 
by a train of imps. If any person afflicted with fits, or 
other grievances, swore that any particular individual 
was the cause, their oath was deemed sufficient, and 
the poor victim of superstition was forthwith com- 
mitted to jail, there to await a cruel death. In many 
parts of the north of Europe, it was for several years 
a very remarkable thing for any old woman to die 
peaceably in her bed ; and the same kind of excite- 
ment prevailed to a considerable extent in England, 



132 CENTURIES SUCCEEDING 

Germany, and France. The description of witches 
and their accompaniments are nearly the same all the 
world over. Even in remote Hindostan, an old wo- 
man appeared many years ago, of whom it was re- 
ported that she used to cook owls, bats, snakes, lizards, 
and human flesh, in the skull of an enemy, by which 
means she was able to render men invisible, and 
strike terror into their adversaries. If the Hindoos 
had read Shakspeare, they could not have pictured 
more exactly the English ideas of a witch. A cat, 
and generally a black one, is usually described as 
one of the appendages of these enchantresses ; and it 
was supposed that they very often assumed the form 
of that animal. 

But it was not merely the aged who fell victims to 
this strange superstition : the young and the beauti- 
ful were sometimes burned at the stake, upon the 
charge of having dealt in magic. Such was the fate 
of the high-souled maid of Orleans. The duchess de 
Conchini, being summoned before the judges, and 
asked by what arts she had bewitched the queen of 
France, calmly replied, " Merely by that ascendency 
which great minds must have over little ones." In 
England, the duchess of Gloster was accused of 
making a wax figure of Henry the Sixth, and causing 
it to melt before the fire with certain incantations, 
intended to produce his death. For this offence, 
charged upon her by political enemies of her hus- 
band, she was condemned to walk through the 
streets barefoot, dressed in a white sheet, with papers 
pinned on her back, and a burning taper in her hand ; 



?HE MIDDLE AGE, 133 

and after performing this humiliating penance three 
days, followed by an insulting rabble, she was ba- 
nished from the realm. Eichard the Third pretended 
that his withered arm was produced by the sorcery 
of his brother's widow and Jane Shore. 

Fortune-telling was a power supposed to be uni- 
versally possessed by witches ; and the most common 
method was by studying the lines of the hand. A 
cup containing tea or coffee grounds was sometimes 
chosen in preference; the person whirled it round 
three times toward herself, accompanying each mo- 
tion with a wish ; then the sorceress examined the 
cup, and pretended to find destiny inscribed there. 

On the evening of the thirty-first of October, called 
Allhallow Even, or Hallow E'en, witches, devils, and 
fairies were supposed to be peculiarly busy. On this 
occasion it was common for young girls to try tricks 
to ascertain whom they were to marry. The burning 
of nuts or apple-seeds in a shovel was a favorite 
charm; the nuts were named, and accordingly as 
they burned quietly together, or bounced away from 
each other, it was supposed the issue of the courtship 
would be. Burns describes this ceremony : 
" Jean slips in twa wi tentie e'e ; 

Wha 't was she wadna tell : 

But this is Jock, and this is me, 

She says in to hersel : 

He bleezed owre her, an she owre him, 

As they wad never mair part ! 

Till luff! he started up the lum, 

And Jean had e'en a sair heart 
To see 't that night." 

It was likewise customary to go out blindfolded and 



134 CENTURIES SUCCEEDING 

pull the first plant of kail they met ; its being big or 
little, crooked or straight, indicated the size and 
shape of the future husband or wife ; the quantity of 
earth that clung to the root was prophetic of the 
degree of wealth ; and the taste of the stem indicated 
the natural temper and disposition. Another trick 
was to go partly down cellar in the dark, and throw 
a ball of thread down stairs, keeping hold of one end 
to wind it ; if any thing impeded it, they called out, 
" Who holds ?" and it was believed that a voice from 
the cellar would answer the name of the future 
spouse. Sometimes an individual stole out unper- 
ceived and sowed a handful of hemp-seed, repeating 
now and then, " Hemp-seed, I sow thee ; hemp-seed, 
I sow thee ; and he that is to be my true love come 
after me and pull thee." Then looking over the left 
shoulder, the appearance of the invoked person was 
supposed to be seen in the attitude of pulling hemp : 
and no doubt it often was seen ; for roguish lovers 
did not always neglect such opportunities to advance 
their suit. 

A volume might be filled with the " tricks" tried 
by young people to ascertain who would be their 
future husband, or wife ; but these few specimens 
must suffice. Egyptian women were the most fa- 
mous sorcerers of the ancient world ; and Gipseys 
have been most famed for magical skill in modern 
times. 

The fourteenth of February is called St. Valentine's 
day. On the evening previous, it was customary in 
many parts of the world for people to write valentines, 



THE MIDDLE AGE. IBS 

or love-letters in verse, to any lady who pleased their 
fancy ; and sometimes ladies were gracious enough 
to address their lovers in rhyme. The outer door 
was usually slyly opened, and the verses, tied to an 
apple or an orange, thrown in. A loud rap then 
announced the event to the inmates of the house. 
Sometimes the boys, for the sake of sport, would 
chalk the size of a letter on the door-step, and then 
have fine fun when some person attempted to pick it 
up. There was a superstition that whoever was first 
seen on the morning of St. Valentine's day, would 
assuredly be the future spouse. On that day it was 
customary for a young lady to choose from among 
the gentlemen of her acquaintance one to be her gal- 
lant ; he presented her with a bunch of flowers, or 
other trifling present, and thus bound himself to at- 
tend upon her with the most obsequious gallantry 
for the space of one year; before the service was 
completed a more serious partnership was often re- 
solved on. 

On St. Valentine's day, it is still usual for the 
common people of England to draw names by lot. 
The man whose name is drawn makes the fair one 
some trifling present, and is her partner in the dance. 
She considers him her beau until he is engaged to 
some one else, or till St. Valentine's day returns. 

These customs, together with the superstitious 
observances of Hallow E'en, continued in full force 
during the seventeenth century, and fragments of 
them are now found in various parts of the world. 

It may be necessary to say a few words concerning 



136 CENTURIES SUCCEEDING 

the dress worn at the remote periods of which we 
have been speaking. The Saxon ladies wore a bodice 
and short petticoat, with a kind of mantle over the 
head and shoulders. Buskins, laced in front, were 
worn on the feet. The custom of combing the hair 
all back from the face, surmounted with a black coif 
and steeple hat, continued from the Norman conquest 
till near the seventeenth century. Queen Elizabeth 
was the first woman in England that wore silk stock- 
ings ; embroidered gloves and perfumes were likewise 
first introduced into England from Italy, for her use. 
This magnanimous queen was extremely offended if 
any of the ladies of her court wore garments ap- 
proaching to her own in magnificence. She had a 
new dress for every day in the year, and was much 
attracted by rich apparel in gentlemen. Sir Walter 
Raleigh had even his shoes embroidered with pearls, 
and the court dresses of her favorite Leicester were 
literally covered with jewels. Elizabeth enacted 
sumptuary laws, which defined with great precision 
what sort of bonnet might be worn by a gentlewo- 
man, what by an esquire's wife, what by a baron's 
wife, &c. Aldermen's wives were permitted by an 
express law to wear the royal color of scarlet. Every 
alderman who failed to supply his wife with a scarlet 
gown before the ensuing Christmas, was fined ten 
pounds ; and every lady, who failed to appear in 
these dresses at Christmas and Easter, forfeited 
twenty shillings for every default. 

During Cromwell's time, ornaments were thought 
sinful. Women wore their hair plain and smooth, 



THE MIDDLE AGE, 137 

md muffled their persons from head to foot, as if 
beauty were a gift to be ashamed of. This unnatu- 
ral restraint produced a violent reaction in the time 
of Charles the Second. Ladies began to copy the 
elegant drapery of Vandyke's pictures, which gradu- 
ally degenerated into extreme immodesty. 

The emperor Paul of Russia made very minute 
regulations concerning the dress both of men and 
women ; and his laws were so capricious that it re- 
quired the most vigilant attention to comply with 
them. He once ordered a lady of his court to be 
imprisoned and kept on bread and water, because she 
had been guilty of wearing her hair rather lower in 
the neck than was consistent with his decrees. 

During the middle ages, the French women wore 
gowns quite high in the neck, and fitted closely to 
the shape. The right side was embroidered with their 
husbands' coat of arms, and the left with their own. 
The custom of displaying the shoulders was unknown 
before the time of Charles the Sixth. Widows were 
closely muffled, and wore caps and veils very much 
tike nuns. Henry the Fourth found himself obliged 
to restrain extravagance by sumptuary laws ; yet his 
mistress, Gabriella, was sometimes so loaded with 
pearls and diamonds, that she could not support her 
own weight. 

A taste for rich and elegant dress displayed itself 
first and most conspicuously in Italy and France, 
and thence spread into more northern nations. Pe- 
trarch's Laura is described as wearing gloves bro- 
caded with gold* and dressed magnificently in silk, 



138 CENTURIES SUCCEEDING 

though a pound of silk at that period was valued at 
four pounds sterling in money. 

Spanish ladies wore necklaces of steel, to which 
thin iron rods were fastened, curving upward to ex- 
pand the veil when thrown over the head. Caps 
more than a foot high were likewise much in vogue ; 
they were dressed in the form of a toupee on the 
top of the head, and covered with a black veil. 
These caps may still be seen in some of the Spanish 
provinces. Both in Scotland and Spain it was cus- 
tomary for a widow to wear mourning till she died, 
or married again. The first year was passed in a 
chamber hung with black, from which the sunlight 
was excluded; the second it was hung with gray, 
and jewels and mirrors prohibited. 

All nations prided themselves on long and beautiful 
hair. Among the Saxons and Danes, married wo- 
men only covered it with a head-dress ; girls wore 
their tresses loose and flowing. A faithless wife had 
her head shaven, and the church sometimes ordered 
it as a penance for other sins. The Spanish and 
Italian ladies retained the Roman predilection for 
golden hair. In order to obtain the desired hue, they 
made use of sulphur and aquafortis, and exposed their 
heads to the sun during the hottest hours of the day. 

During the middle ages, dwellings were vast, and 
in some respects magnificent, but remarkably com- 
fortless. The wife of the proudest baron, though 
she wore 

" A mantle of rich degree, 
Purple pall and ermine fre/* 



THE MIDDLE AGE. 139 

Was obliged to live without many things, which the 
least wealthy citizen of the United States would 
consider it absolutely necessary to provide for his 
household. Coffee and tea were unknown. Coaches 
were not used in England until 1680. Before thai 
time ladies rode on horseback or on palfreys; and 
sometimes double, with another on the pillion. A 
fondness for perfumes was universal ; they were usu 
ally kept burning in censers. 

The word lady is supposed to have been derived 
from the Saxon word hlaf-dig, meaning a loaf- giver ; 
from the custom of distributing bread among retain 
ers, after a feast in baronial halls. It was customarj 
to bind the tender limbs of infants in tight bandages 

After the sixteenth century, books or verses m 
praise of women gradually diminished ; tournaments 
were abolished ; and manners became less reserved 
and respectful. Ladies of rank began to throw aside 
the pedantry of learned languages, and acquire what 
the French call " the talent of society." The French 
were the first to set the example of graceful accom- 
plishments, and fascinating vivacity of manners ; and 
they soon became, what they have ever since remain- 
ed, " the glass of fashion" for other nations. 

The beautiful Mary Stuart carried the gay and 
graceful refinements of Paris into the bleak atmo- 
sphere of Scotland, and Henrietta Maria, with her 
brilliant eyes, lively manners, and ever-changing ca- 
prices, made them fashionable in old England. 

Under the commonwealth, society assumed a new 
and stern aspect. The theatres were shut ; games 



140 CENTURIES SUCCEEDING 

shows, and amusements of every kind, were prohibit* 
ed. Women were in disgrace, and love considered a; 
sin to be expiated by fasting and prayer. It was 
everywhere reiterated from the pulpits that woman 
caused man's expulsion from paradise, and ought to 
be shunned by Christians, as one of the greatest 
temptations of Satan. " Man," said they, " is con- 
ceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity ; it was 
his complacency in woman that wrought his first 
abasement ; let him not therefore glory in his shame ; 
let him not worship the fountain of his corruption.' 7 
Learning and accomplishments were alike discou- 
raged ; and women confined themselves to a know- 
ledge of cookery, family medicines, and unintelligi- 
ble theological disputes of the day. 

The reign of Charles the Second was an era of 
shameless profligacy. Ladies of the court paid lit- 
tle regard to decorum, either in dress or manners ; 
and men covered their selfish sensuality with just 
gloss enough not to defeat their own purposes. 
There never was a time when women were so much 
caressed and so little respected. It was then cus- 
tomary, when a gentleman drank a lady's health, to 
throw some article of dress into the flames in her 
honor ; and all his companions were obliged to sacri- 
fice a similar article, whatever it might be. One of 
Sir Charles Sedley's friends, perceiving that he wore 
a very rich lace cravat, drank to the health of a cer- 
tain lady, and threw his own cravat in the fire, 
Sir Charles followed the example very good-natured- 
ly, but observed that he too would have a joke some- 



THE MIDDLE AGE, 141 

time. Afterward, when he dined with the same par- 
ty, he filled a bumper to some reigning beauty, and 
called a dentist to extract a decaying tooth, which 
had long pained him. Etiquette demanded that eve- 
ry one of the party should throw a tooth in the fire ; 
and they yielded to necessity, after unavailing remon- 
strances against this cruel test of their gallantry. 
The practice of drinking in honor of ladies is said to 
have originated at the concerts of St. Cecilia. When 
the concert ended, the gentlemen retired to a tavern ; 
and he, who could drink the most wine, acquired the 
right of naming the reigning toast for the ensuing 
year. 

During the reign of the second Charles, women, 
instead of being approached with the respect paid to 
superior beings, became the objects of contemptuous 
satire. The despicable earl of Rochester set the 
example of this species of writing ; and in succeeding 
reigns, it was followed by Pope, Swift, Young, and 
a multitude of ordinary writers. Pope says : 

** Men some to pleasure, some to business take ; 
But every woman is at heart a rake." 

The objects of this wholesale bitterness have been 
disposed to palliate it, in consideration of the per- 
sonal deformity of the poet, which made him magna- 
nimously hate those whom he could not please. 

Swift speaks of his unacknowledged and heart- 
broken wife as follows : 

" Her hearers are amazed from whence 
Proceeds that fund of wit and sense, 
Which, though her modesty would shroud, 
Breaks like the sun behind a cloud. 
VOL. II. 10 



142 CENTURIES SUCCEEDING 

Ten thousand oaths upon record 

Are not so sacred as her word ! 

She tends me like an humble slave, 

And when indecently I rave, 

She with soft speech my anguish cheers, 

Or melts my passion down with tears : 

Although 't is easy to descry 

She needs assistance more than I, 

She seems to feel my pains alone, 

And is a stoic to her own. 

Where among scholars can you find 

So soft, and yet so firm a mind ?" 

And yet, when poor Stella had died, a victim to his 
unkindness, he reviled all womankind in terms of 
brutal grossness. He even started the opinion that 
women were a connecting link between men and mon- 
keys ; and ladies will no doubt be disposed to thank 
him for any classification, that does not place item 
in the same species with himself. 

But panegyrists cannot raise women pboi~ their 
level, or satirists force them below it Their cha- 
racter and condition is always in con'er pondence with 
that of men ; and both sexes have always furnished 
about an equal number of exceptions to the general 
character of the age in lHarich they lived. There were 
liberal-minded worn' o, as well as men, during the 
bigoted time^ of Cromwell, and many an English ma- 
tron, of stairless character, educated her pure-minded 
daughters far from the corrupting court of Charles 
the Second. The excellent lady Eussell, who was 
perhaps the very best woman in the world, lived in 
these profligate times. 

Mary, the wife of William the Third, made indus- 
try, domestic virtue, and modest apparel, fashionable 



THE MIDDLE AGE. 143 

by her own example ; and during Anne's reign the 
social intercourse of the sexes was polite and plea- 
sant without being profligate. It is true that lite- 
rature was not the order of the day ; for the women 
of that period were as ignorant of their own language, 
as they had formerly been learned in the classics ; 
Dr. Johnson declares that even the gifted Stella 
could not spell correctly. Needlework became the 
all-absorbing occupation among women of the higher 
classes. Whole churches were hung with tapestry 
embroidered by devout dames ; and notable house- 
wives prided themselves on covering their floors, 
chairs, and footstools, with the workmanship of their 
own hands. 

In queen Anne's reign, it was considered vulgar to 
speak or move like a person in good health. Com- 
plete helplessness was considered peculiarly femi- 
nine and becoming. The duchess of Marlborough 
carried this fashion so far, that when she travelled, 
she ordered the drums of garrisons to be muffled, and 
straw laid before her hotels, lest her delicate nerves 
should be offended with rude noises. About this 
time was introduced from France the fashion of 
wearing shoes with heels five or six inches high, 
top-knots of extraordinary height on the head, and 
hooped petticoats measuring six or seven yards in 
circumference. 

The custom of powdering the hair with flour was 
introduced by ballad singers, in 1641. In the begin- 
ning of the reign of George the First, only two 
ladies wore their hair powdered, and they were 



144 CENTURIES SUCCEEDING 

pointed at for their singularity. The women of that 
period likewise wore a great quantity of artificial 
hair, in imitation of periwigs worn by men. 

About this time, lady Mary Wortley Montagu con- 
ferred a great blessing upon England, and the civi- 
lized world, by introducing inoculation for the small 
pox, after her return from Turkey. The custom was 
opposed with the utmost violence of ignorance and 
prejudice ; but lady Mary persevered in her generous 
purpose, and to prove her sincerity, she first tried it 
upon her own son, about three years old. In Litch- 
field cathedral stands a cenotaph raised to her me- 
mory by a lady, who had herself derived benefit from 
this salutary practice. The monument represents 
Beauty weeping for the loss of her preserver. 

Some of the best English writers appeared during 
the latter part of the seventeenth century ; but the 
romances of the day were exceedingly prosaic, love- 
sick, and sentimental. The hero and heroine always 
fell in love at first sight, and always had innumera- 
ble difficulties to contend with, in consequence of the 
cruelty of relations and the plots of libertines. Love, 
instead of being acted upon and developed by cir- 
cumstances, was represented as the chief end and 
aim of life, and all the events of this busy world were 
merely its accessories. 

About this time was introduced the word " blue- 
stocking," which has ever since been applied to lite- 
rary ladies, who were somewhat pedantic. It is said 
to have originated at a literary club, where several 
women assembled. A gentleman who wore blue 



THE MIDDLE AGE. 145 

stockings was regarded as the lion of the menagerie ; 
and when he was detained, it was common to ob- 
serve, " We can do nothing till the blue stockings 
come." The manner in which the phrase has ever 
since been used leads to the conclusion that the 
members of this club were pedantic. It is now com- 
mon to say of a sensible, unaffected woman, " She 
knows a great deal, but has no tinge of blue." Byron 
wittily remarked, " I care not how blue a woman's 
stockings are, if her petticoats are long enough to 
cover them ;" and this pithy observation comprises 
all that ever need be said about the cultivation of fe- 
male intellect. 

English history presents many instances of women 
exercising prerogatives now denied them. In an ac- 
tion at law, it has been determined that an unmarried 
woman, having a freehold, might vote for members 
of parliament ; and it is recorded that lady Packing- 
ton returned two members of parliament. Lady 
Broughton was keeper of the Gate-house prison ; 
and in a much later period a woman was appointed 
governor of the house of correction at Chelmsford, 
by order of the court. 

In the reign of George the Second, the minister of 
Clerkenwell was chosen by a majority of women. 
The office of champion has frequently been held by 
a woman, and was so at the coronation of George the 
First. The office of grand chamberlain, in 1822, 
was filled by two women ; and that of clerk of the 
crown, in the court of king's bench, has been granted 
to a female. The celebrated Anne, countess of Pern- 



146 ENGLISH WOMEN. 

broke, held the hereditary office of sheriff of West- 
moreland, and exercised it in person, sitting on the 
bench of the judges. In ancient councils mention is 
made of deaconesses ; and in an edition of the New 
Testament printed in 1574, a woman is spoken of as 
minister of a church. The society of Friends, and 
the Methodists, are the only Christian sects who now 
allow women to speak at public religious meetings. 

A woman may succeed to the throne of England 
with the same power and privileges as a king ; and 
the business of the state is transacted in her name, 
while her husband is only a subject. The king's wife 
is considered as a subject ; but is exempted from the 
law which forbids any married woman to possess 
property in her own right during the lifetime of her 
husband ; she may sue any person at law without 
joining her husband in the suit ; may buy and sell 
lands without his interference ; and she may dispose 
of her property by will, as if she were a single wo- 
man. She cannot be fined by any court of law ; 
but is liable to be tried and punished for crimes by 
peers of the realm. The queen dowager enjoys 
nearly the same privileges that she did before she 
became a widow; and if she marries a subject still 
continues to retain her rank and title ; but such mar- 
riages cannot take place without permission from the 
reigning sovereign. A woman who is noble in her 
own right retains her title when she marries a man 
of inferior rank ; but if ennobled by her husband, she 
loses the title by marrying a commoner, A peeress 
can only be tried by a jury of peers. 



ENGLISH WOMEN. 14*? 

In old times, a woman who was convicted of 
being a common mischief-maker and scold, was sen* 
tenced to the punishment of the ducking-stool ; which 
consisted of a sort of chair fastened to a pole, in 
which she was seated and repeatedly let down into 
the water, amid the shouts of the rabble. At New- 
castle-upon-Tyne, a woman convicted of the same 
offence was led about the streets by the hangman, 
with an instrument of iron bars fitted on her head, 
like a helmet. A piece of sharp iron entered the 
mouth, and severely pricked the tongue whenever 
the culprit attempted to move it. 

A great deal of vice prevails in England, among the 
very fashionable, and the very low classes. Miscon- 
duct and divorces are not unfrequent among the for- 
mer, because their mode of life corrupts their princi- 
ples, and they deem themselves above the jurisdiction 
of popular opinion ; the latter feel as if they were be- 
neath the influence of public censure, and find it very 
difficult to be virtuous, on account of extreme poverty 
and the consequent obstructions in the way of mar 
riage. But the general character of English women 
is modest, reserved, sincere, and dignified. They 
have strong passions and affections, which often deve- 
lope themselves in the most beautiful forms of do- 
mestic life. They are in general remarkable for a 
healthy appearance, and an exquisite bloom of com- 
plexion. Perhaps the world does not present a love- 
lier or more graceful picture than the English home 
of a virtuous family. 

In modern times, no nation has produced a greatei 



148 ENGLISH WOMEN. 

number of truly illustrious women. Hannah More 
wrote as vigorously as Johnson, and with far more 
of Christian mildness ; Maria Edgeworth, as a no- 
velist, is second only to Sir Walter Scott ; Mrs. Fry, 
who cheerfully left the refinements of her own home, 
to do good to the destitute and vicious in their pri- 
sons, deserves a statue by the side of Howard ; Mrs. 
Somerville, notwithstanding the malicious assertion 
of Byron, has proved that female astronomers can 
look at the moon for some better purpose than to 
ascertain whether there be a man in it ; and who is 
disposed to dispute lord Brougham's assertion, that 
Harriet Martineau, by her writings on political eco- 
nomy, is doing more good than any man in England ? 

Modern literature contains abundant satire upon 
the vices and follies of women ; but invectives against 
the sex are by no means popular. Byron indeed 
treats them in the true Turkish style, like voluptuous 
goddesses, or soulless slaves, as his own caprices 
happen to be ; but a libertine will always write 
thus, because (as the old chronicler said of the trou- 
badour) " he knoweth nothing better." Cowper, and 
Wordsworth, and that sweet minstrel Barry Corn- 
wall, have praised us in a purer and better spirit, and 
thereby left to posterity a transparent record of their 
own virtue. 

The Irish are an extremely warm-hearted people. 
Their well educated women have an innocent gayety, 
frankness and naivete of manner, that is extremely 
bewitching. As a people, they are remarkably cha- 
racterized by a want of foresight, and keen enjoyment 



IRISH WOMEN. 149 

of the present moment. The style of Irish beauty 
indicates this ; being generally bright-eyed, fresh, 
and laughing. If a young couple were in love with 
each other, it would, in most cases, be in vain to 
remind them of their extreme poverty, with a view 
to inculcate maxims of worldly prudence. The an- 
swer would be, " Sure, two people eat no more when 
they 're together, than they do when they 're sepa- 
rate;" and when told that they may have a great 
deal of trouble and hard work in rearing a family 
of children, they will simply reply, " Sure, that 's 
what I 've always been used to." They are distin- 
guished for filial piety. The most nourishing food 
and the best seat in their cabins are always appro- 
priated to father and mother ; and the grandchildren 
are taught to treat them with respectful tenderness. 

The ancient custom of hired mourners at funerals 
still prevails in some of the provinces of Ireland. 
Women will often join a funeral procession, and 
unite in the lamentations with all their powers of 
voice for some time, and then turn to ask, " Arrah ! 
who is it that 's dead ? Who are we crying for ?" 
Those who are particularly skilful in crying are in 
great demand ; and, as an Irishman said to Miss 
Edgeworth, " every one would wish and be proud 
to have such at his funeral, or at that of his friends." 

The Irish have been great believers in fairies, con- 
cerning the existence of which they have many wild 
popular tales. Their literature is generally imagi- 
native and glowing. Some of the most attractive 
female writers of the present day are of Irish origin. 



150 SCOTCH WOMEN. 

The Scotch women of former times were remark- 
ably high-minded, heroic, loyal to their prince, and 
attached to ancient usages. Their character in these 
respects corresponded with that of the men, and like 
them they had an excessive pride of noble birth. 
The dress of the Highland women was very pic- 
turesque and graceful. It consisted of a petticoat 
and jerkin with straight sleeves, over which they 
wore a plaid fastened with a buckle, and falling to- 
ward the feet in large folds. The Scotch generally 
have high cheek-bones, blue eyes, light hair, and 
countenances expressive of good sense. They are a 
prudent, thrifty, and cautious people. The popular 
belief in a kind of fairies, which they call brownies, is 
indicative of the national character. Stories are told 
of industrious housewives, who have great quantities 
of work performed for them by diligent little brow- 
nies, while they are sleeping ; and of notable dairy- 
maids, who awake in the morning and find silver 
sixpences in their shoes, placed by the same invisible 
hands. 

Scotland has produced several women of great 
talent, whose writings are generally characterized by 
sound good sense, and accurate observation of human 
nature. 

It is a singular circumstance that so gallant a na- 
tion as the French should exclude women from the 
throne, while the ungallant English have a strong 
predilection for the government of queens. The an- 
cient Franks preferred kings, on account of the con- 
tinual wars in which they were engaged ; and a good 



FRENCH WOMEN. 151 

deal of difficulty having arisen concerning a success 
sion to the crown, after the death of Lewis Hutin, it 
was solemnly and deliberately decreed that all fe- 
males should be excluded ; and this decree remains 
to the present day unreversed. Yet there is proba- 
bly no country in the world where women exert 
such an active political influence as in France. Un- 
der the regency of Anne of Austria, they obtained 
an ascendency which they have never since lost. 
According to cardinal de Eetz, a revolution in the 
heart of a woman at that time often 'produced a re- 
volution in public affairs ; and the profligate Louis 
the Fifteenth was notoriously governed by his mis- 
tresses. 

The Comtesse Champagne, when she presided at 
one of the Courts of Love, during the age of chivalry? 
solemnly decided that true love could not exist be- 
tween a married pair ; and it was the received maxim 
of those courts in Provence, that being married was 
no legitimate reason against returning the passion of 
a lover. To this day, the French have a singular 
code of morals upon this subject ; yet those who 
know them well, say they are quite as good, if not a 
little better than their more decorous neighbors. It 
is difficult to make fair comparisons ; and we gladly 
throw a gauze veil over the subject, a la mode 
Frangaise. 

The French are very susceptible, but not charac- 
terized by depth of passion. The following anecdote 
may serve to illustrate the difference between them 
and the English : A Frenchman, by the most ardent 



152 FRENCH WOMEN. 

professions, endeavored to gain the affections of a 
married woman in England ; and she at length be- 
came so infatuated as to propose that they should 
escape to Scotland and secure the happiness of their 
future lives by marriage. The volatile lover excused 
himself as well as he could, and often laughed with 
his countrymen, when he told how much trouble he 
had to escape such excess of kindness. 

The French girls are kept under very strict super- 
intendence. They are not allowed to go to parties, 
or places of public amusement, without being accom- 
panied by some married female relation ; and they 
see their lovers only in the presence of a third per- 
son. Marriages are entirely negotiated by parents ; 
and sometimes the wedding day is the second time 
that a bride and bridegroom see each other. Nothing 
is more common than to visit a lady, and attend her 
parties, without knowing her husband by sight ; or 
to visit a gentleman without ever being introduced to 
his wife. If a married couple were to he seen fre- 
quently in each other's company, they would be 
deemed extremely ungenteel. After ladies are mar- 
ried, they have unbounded freedom. It is a common 
practice to receive morning calls from gentlemen, 
before they have risen from bed ; and they talk with 
as little reserve to such visiters, as they would in the 
presence of any woman of refinement. 

The French are generally slender, active, and well 
proportioned, with brown complexions and dark eyes 
and hair. The prevailing expression of their coun- 
tenances is vivacity, and their manners are charac- 



FRENCH WOMEN. 153 

terized by a graceful ease, which, if it be not nature? 
is the best possible imitation of nature. An artificial 
state of society is here carried to the utmost point of 
refinement. In the perpetual invention of beautiful 
forms more sober nations have toiled after them in 
vain, scolding all the while about French fashions, 
and French caprices. 

The beautiful Marie Antoinette first introduced the 
custom of wearing feathers in the hair. Having one 
day playfully stuck a peacock's feather among her 
curls, she was pleased with the effect, and called for 
some small ostrich plumes. She arranged them so 
tastefully with jewels, that the king declared he had 
never seen any thing more beautiful. Feathers im- 
mediately brought an extravagant price in France^ 
and the fashion soon prevailed all over Europe. 

One day the same queen put on a brown lutestring 
dress, which the king, with a smile, remarked was 
couleur de puce. As soon as this was made known, 
every person of fashion was eager to wear the color 
of a flea. They distinguished between the various 
shades of a young and an old flea, and between dif- 
ferent parts of the body of the same insect. The 
dyers could not possibly satisfy the hourly demand. 
The silk merchants, finding this mania injurious to 
their trade, presented new satins to her majesty, who 
having chosen a glossy ash color, the king observed 
that it was the color of her hair. The uniform of fleas 
was forthwith discarded, and every body was eager 
to wear the co^or of the queen's hair. Some of her 
ringlets were ootained by bribery, and sent to Lyons 



154 FRENCH WOMEN* 

and other manufactories with all haste, that the 
exact hue might be caught. 

French ladies, especially those not young, use a 
great deal of rouge. A traveller who saw many of 
them in their opera boxes, says, " I could compare 
them to nothing but a large bed of peonies." 

After the French revolution, it became the fashion 
to have every thing in ancient classic style. Loose 
flowing drapery, naked arms, sandaled feet, and 
tresses twisted, or braided, a la Diane, or a la Psyche, 
were the order of the day. The want of pockets, 
which had previously been worn, was obviated by 
sticking the fan in the girdle, and confiding the snuff- 
box and handkerchief to some obsequious beau. The 
reticule or indispensable was not then invented. 

The state of gross immorality that prevailed at 
this time ought not to be described, if language had 
the power. The profligacy of Rome in its worst 
days was comparatively thrown into the shade. 
Religion and marriage became a mockery, and every 
form of impure and vindictive passion walked abroad, 
with the consciousness that public opinion did not 
require them to assume even a slight disguise. The 
fish-women of Paris will long retain an unenviable 
celebrity for the brutal excesses of their rage. The 
goddess of Reason was worshipped by men, under the 
form of a living woman entirely devoid of clothing ; 
and in the public streets ladies might be seen who 
scarcely paid more attention to decorum. Even the 
courage they evinced during the reign of terror was 
often oddly mingled with frivolity. A French writer, 



FRENCH WOMEN. 155 

who went to the house of the minister, to solicit 
liberty for an imprisoned friend, was struck with 
always finding a young woman on the spot, who 
apparently came for the same purpose. " Madam," 
said he, " you must have a good deal of energy, to 
rise every day so early at a season so rigorous." 
She replied, " For more than a month I have con- 
stantly been here at eight in the morning, to beg my 
husband's liberty. It is necessary to rise at seven to 
arrange my toilet. You may judge how fatiguing 
this is ; for I cannot miss of a ball, and I often come 
home at five in the morning, after having danced all 
night." 

But the French revolution abounds with anecdotes 
of women who evinced a noble forgetfulness of self. 
Many a one, at the imminent peril of her life, hu- 
manely afforded shelter to fugitives whose religious 
and political opinions differed from her own ; and 
the courage with which they shared the destiny of 
their friends was truly wonderful. A mother, in 
order to gain access to the prison where her son was 
confined, became portress of the jail. One day the 
brutal jailers loaded her with such an enormous 
weight that her delicate frame sunk under the bur- 
den, and she expired near him she had loved so well. 
Madame Lefort was one among numerous instances 
of wives, who effected their husbands' escape by 
change of dress. The angry guards exclaimed, 
" Wretch ! what have you done ?" " My duty," she 
calmly replied; "do yours." When the marshal de 
Mouchy was summoned to appear before the tribu* 



156 FRENCH WOMEN. 

nal, his wife accompanied him. Being told that no 
one accused her, she replied, " When my husband is 
arrested, so am I." She followed him to prison, and 
answered objections by saying, " When my husband 
is sentenced, so am I." She sat by his side in the 
cart that conveyed him to the guillotine, and when 
the executioner told her that no decree of death had 
been issued against her, she answered, u Since my 
husband is condemned, so am I." They were be- 
headed together. 

Madam de Maille was imprisoned instead of her 
sister-in-law. She was aware of the mistake, but 
submitted quietly, that the real victim might escape. 
When tried, she merely observed that the Christian 
name they had read did not belong to her. When 
they insisted upon discovering where the person 
lived to whom it did belong, she replied, " I am not 
weary of life, but I had rather die a thousand deaths 
than save myself at the expense of another. Proceed 
to the guillotine. " The monsters, for once, spared 
human life from respect to a noble action. 

At this period, people ran wild with the idea that 
men and women ought to perform the same duties, 
and that it was gross tyranny not to choose women 
to command armies, harangue senates, &c. An in- 
fluential Frenchman, being asked why they did not 
elect ladies members of the Chamber of Deputies, re- 
plied that the law required every member to be forty 
years old, and he despaired of finding any one who 
would acknowledge herself of that age. 

Perhaps there is no country in the world where 



FRENCH WOMEN. 157 

women of all ranks are treated with so much polite- 
ness as in France. No party is considered a party 
of pleasure without their presence, and great com- 
plaints would be made if they retired from table after 
dinner, according to the custom of the English. 
Whatever may be the husband's business, they are 
active partners in all his concerns. They may be 
seen talking politics in saloons, selling goods at the 
counter, gathering grapes from the vineyards, and 
laboring in the fields. 

France has produced many distinguished women. 
Their literature has been, like themselves, witty, 
agreeable and graceful; but it often reminds one 
of the perfect artificial flowers from Paris, so na- 
tural that they even bear the perfume of the blossoms 
they represent. It seems to be universally conceded 
that Madam de Stael was intellectually the greatest 
woman that ever lived. 

From the time of the Bourbon dynasty, Spanish 
women were excluded from the throne ; but the 
late king reversed the decree in favor of his daugh- 
ter, who is now queen. The Spanish women are 
small and slender, with dark hair and sparkling 
black eyes full of expression. They are in general 
very ignorant, but naturally witty, and much given 
to lively repartee. Their motions are slow and 
graceful, and their dress is usually modest. They are 
rarely seen either in the house or the street without 
their fans ; and when they meet an acquaintance, 
they have an exceedingly graceful and coquettish 
manner of shaking the fan, by way of recogni- 

VOL. fi. 11 



158 SPANISH WOMEN. 

tion. They are indolent in their habits, doing lit- 
tle except dressing, sleeping, saying their prayers 
by bead-roll, and daily sauntering away a couple 
of hours on the Prado. Cleanliness is far from 
being a national characteristic. There is great 
fondness for perfumes, which are generally kept 
burning in their apartments, and ladies are seldom 
without some high-spiced comfit in their mouths. 
In no part of the world has the spirit of chivalry 
lingered so long as in Spain. The Spanish lover 
moves, speaks, thinks, and breathes only for his 
mistress. He praises her in the most hyperbolical 
terms, and approaches her with the deference due to 
a superior being. Something of this characterizes 
the Spanish manners toward the whole sex. They 
never sit down while a lady is standing in the room ; 
and at the close of letters to women, or princes, they 
say, " I kiss your feet," though to a gentleman they 
merely say, " I kiss your hand." If a lady happened 
to express admiration of a gentleman's watch, or any 
valuable trinket, it would be deemed very impolite 
not to present it to her. Throughout Spain, the 
sound of the guitar, frequently accompanied by the 
voice, may be heard until late in the night ; for he 
who has not chosen a lady-]ove, will from mere gal- 
lantry serenade some lady of his acquaintance. 

The Spanish are fond of masquerades, and have a 
great passion for chess. Ladies often attend the 
cruel entertainment of bull-fights. Like all the inha- 
bitants of Catholic countries, they spend a great deal 
of time at church, in religious ceremonies, which 



PORTUGUESE WOMEN. 159 

often prove a convenient cover for love intrigues, 
One of the boys who attend the altar is not unfre- 
quently the messenger on these occasions. He kneels 
near the fair lady, crosses himself, repeats his Ave 
Marias, and devoutly kisses the ground ; during this 
process, he contrives to slip a letter under the lady's 
drapery, and receive another in return. Girls are 
generally educated at convents, and their marriages 
arranged for them by relatives, soon after they leave 
its walls. It is a matter of course for a married lady 
to have a cortego, or gallant, who attends upon her 
obsequiously wherever she goes, and submits to all 
her caprices. The old custom of locks and keys, 
duennas and spies, to guard the character of women, 
has fallen into disuse in modern times. 

The Portuguese are, in general terms, so similar to 
the Spanish, that they do not need a separate descrip- 
tion. The pageantry, superstition and ignorance of 
Catholic countries prevail in both kingdoms. No- 
thing is more common than to see large processions 
of men, women and children, on horses, mules and 
asses, accompanied with music, going to return 
thanks to some particular image of the Virgin, in 
fulfilment of a vow. Women sit with the left side 
toward the horse's head, and sometimes ride after 
the fashion of men. The title of donna is given 
to all ladies. Those of high rank make their visits 
in great state ; they are carried in a chair by four 
men, of whom the two foremost are uncovered ; two 
others attend as a guard, and a seventh carries a lan- 
tern ; two coaches follow, drawn by mules, one con- 



160 PORTUGUESE WOMEN. 

taining her women, and the other the gentlemen of 
her household. The market women, trudging into 
the cities, by the side of their donkeys, with panniers 
heavily laden with fruit and vegetables, and the great 
numbers kneeling by the side of rivers to wash cloth- 
ing, or spreading it out on the banks to dry, have a 
very picturesque effect in the eye of a traveller. In 
both nations marriages, christenings, and funerals are 
celebrated with all the pomp their circumstances will 
admit ; but their usual habits are frugal and tempe- 
rate. The ladies seldom taste any thing but water. 
Their countenances are generally tranquil and mo- 
dest ; and their teeth extremely white and regular, 
owing to the frequent use of tooth-picks made of soft, 
pliant wood. 

In Portugal, women wear the crown, and confer 
the title of king on their husbands, as in England. 
In the interior provinces, they are not allowed to 
go out of doors, without permission of parents and 
husband ; and even their male relations are not al- 
lowed to sit beside them in public places. The 
church is almost the only place where lovers have a 
chance to obtain a sight of them. The Portuguese 
women do not assume the names of their husbands, 
but retain their own. Children bear the family name 
of both parents, and are sometimes called by one, 
sometimes by the other. It is not common for wi- 
dows to marry again. 

The Italians, like their neighbors of Spain and 
Portugal, live under the paralyzing influence of a 
religion that retains its superstitious forms, while 



ITALIAN WOMEN. 161 

little of life-giving faith remains. Like them they 
have lively passions, are extremely susceptible, and 
in the general conduct of life more governed by the 
impetuosity of impulse than rectitude of principle. 
The ladies have less gravity than the Spanish, and 
less frivolity than the French, and in their style of 
dress incline toward the freedom of the latter. Some 
of the richest and most commodious convents of Eu- 
rope are in Italy. The daughters of wealthy families 
are generally bestowed in marriage as soon as they 
leave these places of education. These matters are 
entirely arranged by parents and guardians, and 
youth and age are not unfrequently joined together, 
for the sake of uniting certain acres of land. But 
the affections, thus repressed, seek their natural level 
by indirect courses. It is a rare thing for an Italian 
lady to be without her cavaliere servente, or lover, 
who spends much of his time at her house, attends 
her to all public places, and appears to live upon her 
smiles. The old maxim of the Provencal trouba- 
dours, that matrimony ought to be no hindrance to 
such liaisons, seems to be generally and practically 
believed in Italy. 

Under the powerful aristocracy of Venice, heiresses 
were bestowed in marriage by the government, and 
never allowed to make a foreigner master of them- 
selves and their wealth. 

In Genoa, there are marriage-brokers, who have 
pocketbooks filled with the names of marriageable 
girls of different classes, with an account of their 
fortunes, personal attractions, &c. When they sue- 



162 ITALIAN WOMEN. 

ceed in arranging connections, they have two or 
three per cent, commission on the portion. The 
marriage-contract is often drawn up before the par- 
ties have seen each other. If a man dislikes the 
appearance or manners of his future partner, he may- 
break off the match, on condition of paying the bro- 
kerage and other expenses. 

The Italian ladies are affable and polite, and have 
in general a good deal of taste and imagination. At 
the theatres are a class of performers, called impro- 
visatrice, who recite extempore poetry upon any 
subject the audience suggest, and often in such 
metre as they prescribe. An English traveller de- 
scribes an improvisatrice whom he heard in the win- 
ter of 1818, as a pale girl about seventeen, with large 
black eyes full of fire. When she first began to de- 
claim, her cheeks glowed and her whole frame- qui- 
vered with convulsive effort ; but as she proceeded 
her language became- more flowing and impassioned, 
and the audience expressed their delight by loud and 
frequent applause. 

The literature of Italy has several illustrious fe- 
male names. Their writings, like every thing in that 
sunny clime, are full of fervor and enthusiasm. It 
has already been mentioned that a woman filled one 
of the learned professorships in Bologna in the thir- 
teenth century ; the same thing occurred in the four- 
teenth, fifteenth, and eighteenth centuries. 

Polish women resemble the French in gayety and 
love of pleasure, and the Italians in ardor of passion 
and vividness of imagination. Their manners are 



POLISH WOMEN. 163 

said to be a seductive mixture of languid voluptuous- 
ness and sprightly coquetry. The state of public 
opinion is not favorable to female virtue ; a circum- 
stance which at once indicates corruption, and in- 
creases it. The Poles are fond of pageantry and 
splendor, but are charged with sluttishness in the in- 
terior arrangement of their houses. I presume there 
is no nation, whose ladies are so universally acknow- 
ledged to be pre-eminent in beauty. They have fine 
forms, and an exceedingly graceful carriage. Their 
complexions are generally very fair and clear ; but 
all except the young make use of rouge, and some to 
an excessive degree. The eyes and hair are gene- 
rally light, but there are numerous exceptions. 

During all the struggles of unhappy Poland, the 
women have manifested an heroic spirit. When 
king John Sobieski departed from home to raise the 
siege of Vienna, then closely invested by the Turks, 
his wife looked at him tearfully, and then at a little 
boy, the youngest of her sons. " Why do you weep 
so bitterly ?" inquired the king. " It is because this 
boy is not old enough to accompany his father," she 
replied. 

During the late war, Polish women assisted the 
men in erecting fortifications ; and one of the out- 
works was called the " lunette of the women," be- 
cause it was built entirely by their hands. The 
countess Plater raised and equipped a regiment of 
five or six hundred Lithuanians at her own expense ; 
and she was uniformly at their head, encouraging 
them by her brave example in every battle. The 



164 POLISH WOMEN* 

women proposed to form three companies of their 
own sex to share the fatigues and perils of the army ; 
but their countrymen, wishing to employ their ener- 
gies in a manner less dangerous, distributed them 
among the hospitals to attend the wounded. The 
old Spartan spirit revived at this troubled period, 
and Polish matrons wished their sons to conquer or 
die. If any man, from prudential motives, hesitated 
to fight for his country's freedom, the ladies treated 
him with contempt, and not unfrequently sent him a 
needle and thread, and asked a sword in return. 

Two beautiful sisters of Rukiewicz, quietly seated 
at home, were startled by the sight of a Russian offi- 
cer, with gens d' armes, entering the court. Know- 
ing that their brother was secretary of a patriotic 
club, they immediately suspected that he had been 
arrested, and that his enemies were in search of his 
papers. While one sister with graceful courtesy re- 
ceived and entertained the unwelcome visiters, the 
other hastily set fire to the summer-house, where her 
brother kept the records of the club. More than two 
hundred persons, whose names were on the register, 
were saved by her presence of mind. She returned 
joyfully, and when the Russians inquired what had 
occasioned the fire, she replied, " I wished to save 
you further brutalities. You will find no documents, 
or papers. I am your prisoner. Add me to the 
number of your victims." These noble girls were 
carried to prison, and shamefully treated for three 
years. As soon as they were released, they set off, 
in spite of the remonstrances of their friends, to tra- 



&EBMAN WOMEN'. 166 

vel on foot, and on the wagons of the peasantry, until 
they could reach their exiled brother in Siberia. 

In Poland, a son has two shares of an estate, and 
a daughter but one ; a father cannot dispose of his 
fortune otherwise, except by a judicial sentence. 

The Germans are less susceptible than the French^ 
but have more depth of passion. Among them there 
is little of that instantaneous falling in love, so com- 
mon among the Italians and Poles ; but their affec- 
tions are gained by solid and true qualities. They 
have more sobriety than the French, and more frank- 
ness than the English. Living for happiness rather 
than pleasure, they attach all due sacredness to that 
good English word home, the spirit of which is so 
little understood by the southern nations. The wo- 
men of all classes are distinguished for industry. It 
is a common practice to carry needlework into par- 
ties ; and sometimes a notable dame may be seen 
knitting diligently at the theatre. Many of the 
young Swabian girls, of thirteen or fourteen years 
old, are sent to Stuttgard, to acquire music, or other 
branches of education, among which household duties 
are generally included. A matron, who keeps a large 
establishment there, gives the instruction, which they 
voluntarily seek. They may often be seen returning 
from the baker's, with a tray full of cakes and pies of 
their own making ; and sometimes young gentlemen, 
for the sake of fun, stop them to buy samples of their 
cookery. 

Injustice is always done to nations by describing 
them in general terms : and this is peculiarly the 



166 AUSTRIAN WOMEN. 

case with Germany ; for both men and women are 
remarkable for individuality of character. It may, 
however, be truly said that German women are usu- 
ally disposed to keep within the precincts of domestic 
life, and are little ambitious of display. Their influ- 
ence on literature is important, though less obvious 
than in some other countries. In almost every con- 
siderable town, a few literary families naturally fall 
into the habit of meeting at each other's houses al- 
ternately, and thus, without pretension, form social 
clubs, of which intelligent and learned women are 
often the brightest ornaments. Their female writers 
have usually belonged to the higher classes ; others 
being too much employed in domestic avocations to 
attend to literature. Several of these writers are 
such as any nation might be proud to own. Among 
the most distinguished are Theresa Huber, daughter 
of the celebrated Heyne, in Gottingen ; Madame 
Schoppenhauer ; and Baronne de la Motte Fouque. 

The women of Germany and Austria have, in ge- 
neral, fair complexions, auburn hair, large blue eyes, 
and a mild, ingenuous expression of countenance. 
There is a good deal of innocent freedom in their 
deportment, but so tempered with modest simplicity, 
that they receive respect without the necessity of re- 
quiring it. They are in general exemplary wives, 
and excellent mothers. Divorce has never been 
sanctioned by Austrian laws. 

Both Germans and Austrians are said to have great 
pride of high birth. The poor are simple and gentle 
in their manners, very neat in their dress, and indus- 



AUSTRIAN WOMEN. 167 

trious in their habits ; but in some of the provinces 
the peasantry, both men and women, are addict- 
ed to intemperance. The young men of Vienna 
are accused of being more fond of riding, hunting, 
good eating, and smoking, than of joining the parties 
of ladies. A foreigner is somewhat surprised to see 
on such occasions thirty or forty ladies, talking toge- 
ther, and engaged in various kinds of needlework? 
without attracting, or seeming to expect, attention 
from their countrymen. 

The people who inhabit the vast extent of country 
between the Black sea and the North sea are divided 
into various distinct races, too numerous to admit of 
a particular description. The women are generally 
very industrious ; even in their walks they carry a 
portable distaff and spin every step of the way. Ge- 
nerally speaking, the clothing of these people is of 
domestic manufacture ; the wants of each family be- 
ing supplied by the diligent fingers of its female mem- 
bers. A Walachian woman may often be seen carry- 
ing a large basket of goods to market on her head, 
singing and spinning as she trudges along. Both Cro- 
atian and Walachian women perform all the agricul- 
tural operations, in addition to their own domestic 
concerns. When a mother goes to church, or to visit 
a neighbor, or to labor in the fields, she carries her 
infant in a low open box, swung over her shoulders 
by cords ; while she is at work, this box is suspended 
on a neighboring tree. The Liburnian women carry 
on their heads a cradle, in which the babe sleeps se^ 
curely. When these cradles are set on the ground, 



168 AUSTRIAN WOMEN. 

they rock with the slightest impulsion. The Goth- 
scheer women often follow the trade of pedlers, and 
are absent from their homes many months, travelling 
about the country with staff in hand, and a pack at 
their back. 

Among these numerous tribes, each preserving 
their ancient customs from time immemorial, the 
Morlachians seem to be the most rude. " In gene- 
ral," says M. Fortis, " their women, except those of 
the towns, seem not at all displeased to receive a 
beating from their husbands, and sometimes even 
from their lovers." Being treated like beasts of bur- 
den, and expected to endure submissively every spe- 
cies of hardship, they naturally become very dirty 
and careless in their habits. The wretched wife, 
after she has labored hard all day, is obliged to lie 
upon the floor, and would be beaten, if she presumed 
to approach the heap of straw on which her tyrant 
sleeps. When the Morlachians have occasion to 
speak of a woman, before any respectable person, 
they always say, " saving your presence ;" as if apo- 
logizing for the mention of things so disgusting; and 
in answer to inquiries reply, " It is my wife — excuse 
the word." 

From these brutes in the human form, we gladly 
turn to the frank, affectionate, romantic Tyrolese. 
Among these simple, virtuous people, husbands and 
wives are remarkably faithful to each other, and 
fondly attached to their children. Their robust and 
vigorous women are engaged in very toilsome occu- 
pations, but the men take their full share in all labo- 



TYROLESE WOMEN. 169 

rious tasks. Many of them travel through Germany 
as pedlers, and they are rarely seen without a wife 
or a sister by their side. The Tyrolese women are 
gentle and modest, but not shy in the presence of 
strangers. A mother, in the innocent kindness of 
her heart, frequently sends her daughters to meet a 
traveller, and offer him a present of fruit or flowers, 
or a draught of sweet milk, from her own neat dairy. 
Their affections are ardent, and they are proverbial 
for constancy. It is an almost unheard of thing for 
parents to arrange marriages, or attempt to throw any 
obstacle in the way of a desired union between their 
children. The young people become acquainted with 
each other in their walks, or at their rustic amuse- 
ments, and when they have once taken each other by 
the hand, in earnest pledge of their mutual affection, 
every other man and woman in the world are forever 
after excluded from their thoughts, so far as love is 
concerned. The Tyrolese have a reverent and sim- 
ple faith in religion, and a strong belief in the active 
agency of good and evil spirits. The peasant girls 
scarcely dare to go abroad after dark, for fear of fall- 
ing into snares laid by mischievous spirits. To pro- 
tect themselves from these influences, it is common 
for both sexes to engrave the figure of Christ upon 
their flesh, by pricking it with a needle and rubbing 
gunpowder into the punctures. 

The Swiss resemble the Tyrolese in simplicity, 
frankness, and honesty. The women are very neat 
and industrious. They are busily engaged in their 
dairies and domestic avocations, and are little in- 



170 SWISS WOMEN. 

clined to visiting. When they do visit socially, very 
few men are invited, and those are their nearest rela- 
tions. Sometimes twenty ladies assemble together, 
without one man in the party ; their husbands being 
all assembled at the smoking clubs. 

In Basil, female societies are formed from infancy 
of children of the same age, and the same class. 
They are so particular about equality of years, that 
sisters, whose ages differ a few years, belong to sepa- 
rate societies, with whom they always meet at each 
other's houses. Friendships formed in this way 
constitute a strong bond of union. Those that have 
belonged to the same society in childhood often 
meet, after separation, in maturer years, with the 
affection of sisters. The ladies usually carry work 
to parties, at which they assemble as early as three 
in the afternoon. Parents have one day of the week, 
which they call le jour defamille. On this occasion 
all their offspring, even to the fifth and sixth genera- 
tion, are assembled together. The Swiss women mar- 
ry at an early age. Not long since, there were six 
ladies in Basil whose grandchildren were grandmo- 
thers. The manners of these hardy mountaineers 
are patriarchal and affectionate. Young people are 
allowed to marry according to their inclination, and 
matches from interested motives are not common. 
In such a state of things, there is no need of the re- 
straints imposed among voluptuous nations. The 
Swiss girls have a great deal of freedom allowed 
them, and are distinguished for innocence and mo- 
desty. 



DUTCH WOMEN. 171 

The inhabitants of the Netherlands are proverbial 
for their industry and love of acquiring money. 
Their women are eminently domestic, being always 
busy in their household, or engaged in assisting their 
husbands in some department of his business, such 
as keeping accounts, and receiving money. They 
are not only thrifty themselves, but teach their chil- 
dren to earn something as soon as they can use their 
fingers. If they quit their domestic employments, it 
is to join some family party, or take a short excur- 
sion with their husbands. Their stainless floors, 
shining pewter dishes, and snow-white starched 
caps, all indicate that notable housewives are com- 
mon in the land. The Dutch women are generally 
robust and rosy, with figures the reverse of tall 
and slender. At Haarlem, a very ancient and pe- 
culiar custom is still preserved. When a child is 
newly born, a wooden figure, about sixteen inches 
square, covered with red silk and Brussels lace, is 
placed at the door. This exempts the master of the 
house from all judicial molestation, and is intended 
to insure the tranquillity necessary for the mother's 
health. To prevent the kind but injudicious intru- 
sion of friends, a written bulletin of the state of both 
mother and child is daily affixed to the door or win- 
dow ; and finally a paper is posted on the door, to 
signify on what day the mother will receive the 
ladies of her acquaintance. Among the phlegmatic 
and thrifty Dutch, matches are, of course, generally 
made from prudential motives, rather than the im- 
pulses of passion, or the refinement of sentiment. 



172 RUSSIAN WOMEN. 

Russia is a country slowly emerging from barba- 
rism. Of their condition in the time of Peter the 
Great, something may be judged by the regulation 
he made, ordering the ladies of his court not to get 
drunk upon any pretence whatever, and forbidding 
gentlemen to do so before ten o'clock. The empress 
Catherine ordered certain Russian ladies to be pub- 
licly knouted for some indiscretions. French man- 
ners now prevail among the higher ranks, who are 
generally frank, hospitable and courtly. The women 
are serious and dignified, with something of oriental 
languor. Their forms of society are ceremonious, 
compared with the lively graces of the Poles, of 
whose manners they are apt to judge severely. A 
French writer has asserted that of all countries, ex- 
cept France, it is perhaps the most agreeable to 
be a woman in Russia ; but when he said this, he 
must have been thinking only of cities, and of a 
favored class in those cities. The Russian ladies 
are proverbial for the facility with which they ac- 
quire foreign languages. They * speak and write 
French like native Parisians, though often unable to 
spell the Russian tongue, which is seldom spoken in 
polite circles. Among the higher ranks, whose 
blood is mingled with that of Georgians, Circassians, 
and Poles, there are some women of extraordinary 
beauty ; but the Russian females are in general short, 
clumsy, round-faced and sallow. They daub their 
faces with red and white paint, and in some districts 
stain their teeth black. The peasantry use no cra- 
dles. The babe is placed on a mattress, inclosed in 



RUSSIAN WOMEN, 173 

n frame like that used for embroidery, and suspended 
from the ceiling by four cords, after the manner of 
the Hindoos. Russian fathers, of all classes, general- 
ly arrange marriages for their children, without con- 
sulting their inclinations. Among the peasantry, if 
a girl has the name of being a good housewife, her 
parents will not fail to have applications for her, 
whatever may be her age, or personal endowments. 
As soon as a young man is old enough to be married, 
his parents seek a wife for him, and all is settled 
before the young couple know any thing of the mat- 
ter. Porter gives very unfavorable ideas of the mo- 
rality of the Russian nobility. He says the marriage 
tie is little regarded, but the women are less profli- 
gate than the men. It ought, however, in justice, to 
be remembered that a traveller has a better chance 
to see the vices of a country, than its virtues. Al- 
though the Russians, in common with their neigh- 
bors of Sweden and Lapland, have an Asiatic fond- 
ness for frequent bathing, they are so dirty with re- 
gard to their garments, that even the wealthy are 
generally more or less infested with vermin. 

The Cossack women are very cleanly and indus- 
trious. In the absence of their husbands they supply 
their places, by taking charge of all their usual oc- 
cupations in addition to their own. It is rare for a 
Cossack woman not to know some trade, such as 
dyeing cloth, tanning leather, &c. 

Throughout Russia all classes salute each other 
by kissing. " When a lady would only courtesy a 
welcome in England, she must kiss it in Russia;'' 

VOL. II. 12 



174 SWEDISH WOMEN. 

and if a man salutes her in this way, she must on no 
occasion refuse to return it. 

The higher classes, both in Denmark and Sweden, 
imitate the French manners and customs very close- 
ly. The ladies generally have the northern physi- 
ognomy ; viz. fair complexion, light hair, blue eyes, 
and a mild, clear expression. They have little 
of the ardor of the Italians, or the vivacity of 
the French. Ambition is more easily excited in 
their breasts than love. Their manners are modest 
and reserved. Gallantry toward ladies is not the 
characteristic of any of the northern nations. The 
Swedes are generally industrious and sincere, and 
perhaps there is no country in the world where wo- 
men perform so much and such various labor. They 
serve the bricklayers, carry burdens, row boats, 
thresh grain, and manage the plough. 

Swedish children are wrapped up in bandages like 
cylindrical wicker baskets, to keep them straight, 
from one to eighteen months old. They are sus- 
pended from pegs in the wall, or laid in any conve- 
nient part of the room, where they remain in great 
silence and good humor. M'Donald, in his Travels, 
says, " I have not heard the cries of a child since I 
came to Sweden." Travellers in these northern 
countries are surprised to see women drink strong, 
spirituous liquors, with as much freedom as the men. 

Among the half-savage Laplanders, this bad habit 
is carried to a great extent. There a lover cannot 
make a more acceptable present to the girl of his 
choice, than a bottle of brandy ; and when he wishes 



ICELAND WOMEN. 175 

to gain the favor of her relations, he endeavors to do 
it by a liberal distribution of the same liquor. 

The Icelanders, though living in a climate even 
more inclement, and exposed to equal fatigue while 
fishing in their stormy seas, are temperate in their 
habits, and at festive meetings rarely drink any thing 
but milk and water. They have a love of literature 
truly surprising among a people exposed to such 
continual danger and toil. It is contrary to law for 
a woman to marry unless she can read and write. 
When darkness covers the land, and their little huts 
are almost buried in snow, one of the family reads 
some instructive volume, by the light of a lamp, while 
the others listen to him, as they perform their usual 
avocations. " In these regular evening readings the 
master of the family always begins, and he is fol- 
lowed by the rest in their turn. Even during their 
daily in-door labors, while some are employed in 
making ropes of wool, or horse-hair, some in pre- 
paring sheep-skin for fishing dresses, or in spinning, 
knitting, or weaving, one of the party generally reads 
aloud for the amusement and instruction of the 
whole. Most farm-houses have a little library, and 
they exchange books with each other. As these 
houses are scattered over a wild country, and far 
apart, the only opportunity they have of making 
these exchanges is when they meet at church ; and 
there a few always contrive to be present, even in 
the most inclement weather." 

The dress of the Icelanders is neat, without any 
effort to be ornamental. Families are almost inva- 



176 MODERN GREEKS. 

riably clothed in garments spun and woven at home. 
It is needless to say that a people with such habits 
cherish the domestic virtues, and treat their women 
with kindness. 

The general manners of the modern Greeks are the 
same, whether they live in Constantinople or the 
various islands of the Archipelago. In cities, women 
rarely appear in public, even at churches, till they 
are married. In their houses certain rooms are ap- 
propriated to the ladies and their attendants, to carry 
on embroidery and other feminine employments. 
The men have separate apartments. Female slaves 
are treated with great gentleness. Some adopt them 
when very young, and call them " children of their 
souls." Like the Greeks of old, some trusty female 
slave is often the nurse, confidant, and friend of her 
mistress. A woman of any consideration never ap- 
pears abroad without one servant at least ; and those 
who affect display, are attended by an innumerable 
troop. The Greek ladies present their hand to be 
kissed by their children or inferiors. Young girls 
salute each other in a singular manner ; they hold 
each other by the ears while they kiss the eyes. 
The wealthy Greeks, like the Turks, are exceedingly 
fond of expensive jewels. The ladies often dress 
themselves in the most splendid manner, without 
any expectation of seeing company, merely to in- 
dulge their own fancy, or that of their husbands. 
Their marriage ceremonies in many respects resem- 
ble those of their classic ancestors. The evening 
preceding the wedding, the bride is conducted to the 



MODERN GREEKS. 177 

bath, accompanied by music and attendants. The 
next day, she proceeds with slow and solemn pace to 
the church, adorned with all the jewels she can ob- 
tain, and covered with a rose-colored veil. A blazing 
torch is carried before her, and a long procession fol- 
lows. At the altar both bride and bridegroom are 
crowned with flowers, which are frequently ex- 
changed in the course of the ceremony. They have 
likewise two wedding rings, which are exchanged 
and re-exchanged several times. Immediately after 
the benediction, a cup of wine is offered to the young 
couple, and afterward to the witnesses of the mar- 
riage. When the bride arrives at her new home, she 
is lifted over the threshold, it being considered omi- 
nous for her feet to touch it. She likewise walks 
over a sieve covered with a carpet. She is seated 
on a sofa in the corner of the room, and there ex- 
pected to remain downcast and immovable, amid all 
the music, and dancing, and gayety around her. 
Every guest, as he comes into the room, passes by 
her, and throws a piece of money in her lap, which 
she deposits in a small silver box, without moving 
her lips, or raising her eyes. The festival is kept up 
three days, during which time the bride does not ut- 
ter a word except it be in a whisper to some of her 
female attendants. Marriages usually take place on 
Sunday, and the bride is not allowed to leave the 
house until the Sunday following. Custom demands 
that some dowry should be in readiness, and even a 
beautiful woman is more acceptable for not being 
entirely destitute. The Albanian girls carry their 



178 MODERN GREEKS. 

marriage portions on their scarlet caps, which are 
covered with paras and piastres, like scales, Pea-* 
sant girls will undergo the greatest fatigue to add a 
para to this cherished hoard. They often get a large 
price for old coins found among the ruins ; but some* 
times no money will tempt them to sell it, because 
they believe a certain charm resides in the legend 
round the coin. The Greeks have universally a 
strong belief in omens, signs, and oracles. When 
they drink to the health of a bridal pair, they always 
accompany it with the wish that no evil eye, or ma- 
lignant influence, may blight their happiness. They 
are a gay and lively people, exceedingly fond of mu- 
sic and dancing, which in their fine climate are often 
enjoyed in the open air. Their character is ardent 
and susceptible in the extreme ; and the reality of 
love is very apt to be tested by the suddenness of 
the impression. Girls are often married at ten years 
of age, and bachelors are very uncommon. Except 
in the large towns, and among the opulent classes, 
matches are rarely made from interested motives, 
and divorces scarcely ever occur. 

The inhabitants of ancient Lesbos were said to 
be dissolute in their manners ; and the island (now 
called Metelin) still bears the same character. The 
women of Scio are said to be peculiarly handsome 
and engaging in their manners. They may be seen 
at the doors and windows, twisting silk, or knitting ; 
and when a traveller appears, they not only invite 
him into their houses, but urge him with playful ear- 
nestness. Their object is partly friendly hospitality, 



MODERN GREEKS, 179 

and partly a wish to sell some of the handsome purses 
for which Scio is celebrated. They have learned to 
offer them in the language of many nations ; and 
Frenchman, Italian, or Swede, is likely to hear him- 
self addressed, in his own tongue, from various quar- 
ters, " Come and look at some handsome purses, sir." 
But this frankness is so obviously innocent, that a 
profligate man would never mistake it for boldness. 

The dead are carried to the grave in a kind of open 
litter, with the face uncovered. When a young 
maiden dies, she is covered with rich garments, and 
crowned with a garland. As the bier passes along 
the streets, women throw roses, and scatter perfumed 
waters upon it. 

At various epochs of their history, the Greek wo- 
men have evinced heroism worthy of the ancient 
Spartans. They have fought against the Turks with 
the resolute and persevering bravery of disciplined 
warriors, and sought death in its most horrid forms 
to save themselves from infamy. A woman of Cy- 
prus, with the consent of her daughters, set fire to 
the powder-magazine in which they were concealed, 
because they preferred this fate to the sultan's seragl- 
io ; and this was but one of many instances of simi- 
lar resolution. The captain of a Greek gun-brig, 
famous for his bravery during the dreadful scene at 
Napoli di Romania, was treacherously murdered by 
order of the capitan pacha, at Constantinople. To 
avenge his death, his widow built three ships at her 
own expense, of which during the war she took the 
command, accompanied by her two sons. 



180 FEMALE PEASANTRY. 

The Greeks are very ignorant ; but both men and 
women generally evince a desire to receive books, 
and have schools established among them. Females 
of the lower class often labor hard in the fields, and 
thereby lose the beauty for which their country- 
women are distinguished. Madox speaks of seeing 
women in the Greek islands winnowing corn, who 
looked like the witches in Macbeth. 

In giving this brief outline of European manners, 
either in the middle ages or modern times, the poor 
have been nearly left out of the account. In the 
middle ages, nobles treated their vassals as slaves. 
They were scantily fed, miserably clothed, obliged 
to marry according to the dictates of a master, 
and seldom addressed in any better language than 
" villain," or " base hound." The condition of Polish 
and Russian serfs in modern times is about the same. 
The Polish peasant women have scarcely clothing 
enough for decency, and the hardships and privations 
to which they are subjected destroy every vestige 
of good looks. In Russia, women have been seen 
paving the streets, and performing other similar 
drudgery. In Finland, they work like beasts of bur- 
den, and may be seen for hours up to the middle in 
snow-water, tugging away at boats and sledges. In 
Flanders, girls carry heavy baskets of coal to mar- 
ket strapped on their shoulders. The old peasant 
women in France are said to be frightfully ugly, in 
consequence of continued toil and exposure to the 
weather. In England, it is not unusual to see poor 
women scraping up manure from the streets, with 



FEMALE PEASANTRY. 181 

their hands, and gathering it into baskets. In a 
word, there is no part of Europe where an American 
would not see the novel sight of females laboring in 
the fields, or carrying burdens in the streets, without 
a bonnet to shield them from sun or rain. 

But the European structure of society differs from 
that of Asiatic nations or savage tribes in the com- 
parative equality of labor between the sexes ; if poor 
women are obliged to work hard, poor men are so 
likewise ; they do not, like Orientals, sit in idleness, 
while women perform nearly all the drudgery. In 
some districts, such as Croatia, Morlachia, &c. wo- 
men have more than their share of toil. In Savoy and 
the north of Italy, emigration, for the purpose of gain- 
ing a livelihood in other countries, is general among 
the peasantry, especiallyduring the winter. In some 
districts it is uncommon to find a tenth part of the 
male population at home. The women and children 
take care of the goats, sheep, and cattle, do all the 
out-of-door work, and spin and weave garments for 
their absent husbands. 

Nearly all the amusements of modern times are 
shared by the women as well as the men. No re- 
creations are more universally enjoyed by all nations, 
and all classes, than music and dancing. In the 
splendid saloons of the wealthy and the fashionable 
they are introduced in a thousand forms, to vary the 
excitements of life ; and the toil-worn peasant dancing 
with the girl of his heart, with the green-sward for 
his carpet, and heaven for his canopy, has enjoyment 
that princes might sigh for in vain. A traveller, 



182 MODERN AMUSEMENTS. 

speaking of Greek dances, says : " Though the com- 
pany was generally composed of boatmen, fishermen, 
and donkey drivers, with their wives, daughters, sis- 
ters, or sweethearts, I have seen more beauty and 
grace, and infinitely more spirit and gayety, than it 
has been my lot to meet in saloons luminous with 
chandeliers, and furnished with all the appurtenances 
of luxury." The Irish are extravagantly fond of 
dancing. Weddings and other festivals are cele- 
brated with much dancing, and Sunday rarely passes 
without it. Dancing-masters travel through the 
country, from cabin to cabin, with a piper or blind 
fiddler, and their pay is sixpence a quarter. The 
waltz is a graceful dance of German origin. Mo- 
dest matrons formerly objected to their daughters 
waltzing with gentlemen, on account of the frequent 
intertwining of arms, and clasping each other's 
waists ; but this is now common in the fashionable 
circles of Europe, not only among the voluptuous 
nations of the South, but with the more reserved 
inhabitants of the North. The waltz is said to have 
been danced at Luther's wedding, when he married 
the nun. 

Theatrical representations are as open to women 
as to men, though custom requires that they should 
not appear in such public places without some pro- 
tector. In Spain, no man is allowed to enter the 
boxes appropriated to women ; but in other places, 
the male and female members of the same family, or 
the same party, sit together. The public perform- 
ances called opera-dancing can never be witnessed by 



MODERN AMUSEMENTS. 183 

a modest woman for the first time, without feelings 
of shame ; yet they are sanctioned by fashion. There 
has been about an equal degree of male and female 
talent for dramatic acting. Women who adopt this 
profession are not generally respected, because it is 
taken for granted that their morals are not very se- 
vere ; but many have risen to high rank, in conse- 
quence of powerful talent, and purity of character. 
The nobility and gentry of Europe have very fre- 
quently intermarried with distinguished actresses. 

In Holland and Russia, skating is a favorite amuse- 
ment both with men and women. The Friesland 
women often make a match to contend for a prize. 
At one of these races, which took place in 1805, one 
of the competitors was past fifty, and many only 
fifteen. A girl about twenty gained the principal 
prize, which was a golden ornament for the head ; 
another, sixteen years old, gained the second prize, a 
coral necklace with a gold clasp. It is stated that 
the former skated a mile in something less than two 
minutes and a half. They commonly go two and 
two, each with an arm round the other's waist, or 
one before the other, holding by the hand ; but some- 
times thirty persons may be seen skating all toge- 
ther, and holding each other by the hand. 

In Catholic countries festival days are too nume- 
rous to be described. During the Carnival there is 
one universal spirit of gayety and fun. People ap- 
pear abroad in all manner of fantastic carriages, and 
masquerade dresses. Buffoons, peasant girls, Gip- 
seys, Tartar warriors, and Indian queens, are mingled 



184 MODERN AMUSEMENTS. 

together in grotesque confusion. People pelt each 
other with sugar-plums, or with small comfits made 
of plaster of Paris and flour, until they look as if a 
sack of meal had been shaken over them. Beautiful 
girls have showers of bon-bons bestowed, as they 
pass along; and not unfrequently these sweet gifts 
are contained in fanciful little baskets tied with rib- 
bons. On certain days it is allowable to play all 
manner of mischievous pranks ; these are called in- 
truding days, and probably have the same origin as 
our April-fool day. 

Easter is ushered in with great religious pomp 
and pageantry. No person meets another without 
kissing him on each side of his face and saying, 
" Christ is risen /" The answer uniformly is, " He is 
risen indeed /" On Easter Monday begins the pre- 
sentation of the paschal eggs, which have been previ- 
ously blessed by the priest. These ornamental eggs, 
either of glass, porcelain, or gold, or real eggs with 
fanciful colors and patterns, are presented by lovers 
to their mistresses, by friends to each other, and by 
servants to their masters. The poorest peasant, 
when he presents his paschal egg and repeats the 
words, " Christ is risen /" may demand a kiss even 
of the empress. All business is laid aside. The 
rich devote themselves to suppers, balls, and masque- 
rades, while the poor sing and carouse in the streets. 

Christmas is observed with great festivity in Pro- 
testant countries, as well as Catholic. All the schools 
give a vacation, that families may be enabled to meet 
together round the merry Christmas table. The 



MODERN AMUSEMENTS. 185 

custom of bestowing presents is universal. In some 
places, a large bough, called the Christmas tree, is 
prepared the evening previous, and the boxes, bas- 
kets, trinkets, &c. sent by friends are suspended on 
the branches, with the name of the person for whom 
they ar$ intended affixed to them. There is great 
eagerness, particularly among the children of a fa- 
mily, to ascertain what are their Christmas gifts. 
Houses are decorated with evergreens. In Great 
Britain, a branch of misletoe is hung up in great 
state, and a man may claim kisses of any woman 
who passes under it, plucking off a berry at each 
kiss. Both at Easter and Christmas it is customary 
to lay aside the distinctions of rank, to a certain ex- 
tent, in imitation of the " meek and lowly" founder 
of the Christian religion. The old barons and their 
vassals shared the same Christmas luxuries at the 
same loaded table ; and even now, a servant may, 
without offence, kiss the daughter of his lady, if she 
chance to stand under the misletoe. On this occa- 
sion, the rich are expected to give bountifully to the 
poor. 

The custom of bestowing gifts on the first of Janu- 
ary, accompanied with wishes for a happy new year, 
is universal, according to the custom of the old Ro- 
mans, on the Kalends of January. Almost every lover, 
husband, and parent, makes it a point to provide some 
acceptable present for the objects of his affection. On 
this day there is a great rivalry who shall call the 
earliest upon friends with the compliments of the 
season. In France, every man is expected to present 



186 MODERN AMUSEMENTS. 

bon-bons, at least, to the ladies of his acquaintance ; 
and whoever visits a Parisian belle on the first of 
January, will find her table covered with the jewels, 
gloves, perfumes, and artificial flowers, that have been 
presented in the course of the day. The ancient 
Romans had a similar custom on the Kalends of 
January. 

The first of May was formerly observed with the 
pageantry of processions, music, dancing, and oxen 
decorated with ribbons and flowers. This festival is 
still observed in most parts of Europe. People of all 
classes go out into the fields to gather flowers and 
green branches, which they often leave in baskets at 
the door of some friend, accompanied with a poetical 
welcome to Spring. In most villages a May-pole is 
erected, decorated with garlands and ribbons, around 
which the young people dance right joyfully. The 
favorite of the village is usually chosen queen of 
May, and crowned with flowers. It was an old su- 
perstition that the first dew gathered in May was 
peculiarly beneficial to the complexion. 

The limits of this work will not permit even a 
passing allusion to the numerous games and festivals 
of modern times ; it is sufficient to say that women 
join in all, except those which are fatiguing and 
dangerous. 

The habits and employments of fashionable circles 
are nearly the same throughout Christendom ; the ge- 
neral tone of their manners is taken from the French 
and English, and is sometimes a compound of both. 
Their infants are almost always nourished and taken 



MODERN W ft £ ft . 187 

Care of by hired nurses. The fashion of dress, which 
varies more rapidly than the changing seasons, is an 
all-absorbing object of interest. The time that is 
not spent with mantuamakers, milliners, jewellers? 
and dressing maids, is devoted to parties, morning 
calls, and amusements, with an occasional exertion 
of ingenuity in some light fancy-work. Many of the 
court ladies of Bavaria are said to have no other 
employment than changing their dresses many times 
a day, and playing with their numerous parrots, dogs? 
and cats. But in every country there are among the 
wealthy classes honorable exceptions to these re- 
marks — women who appear with elegance, without 
suffering dress to engross their thoughts, and who 
can find time for the graceful courtesies of life, with- 
out neglecting the cultivation of their minds, or the 
care of their children. In recent times, it is very 
common for ladies to form societies for various chari- 
table purposes. Women of different nations some- 
times unite their efforts for the same object ; thus the 
English ladies joined with the German, to support 
the numerous Saxon orphans, who lost their parents 
in the wars of 1813. Sometimes the members of 
such societies busy themselves, for months together, 
in preparing useful and elegant articles, and after- 
wards sell them at a fair, which their friends and 
acquaintances are, of course, generally desirous to 
attend. 

In many parts of Europe the peasantry do not 
change their style of dress in the course of centuries ; 
but each of the innumerable districts has a fashion 



188 MODERN WOMEN. 

peculiar to itself. They are distinguished from the 
same classes of women in Asia, by going with their 
faces uncovered, and almost universally dressing mo- 
destly high in the neck. Among the wealthy, female 
decorum is often sacrificed on the altar of unblushing 
fashion. 

Beautiful hair is now, as it always has been, con- 
sidered the greatest external ornament of woman; 
and it is one with which the poor are often endowed, 
as well as the rich. An Oxfordshire lass, with re- 
markably beautiful hair, was courted by a young 
man, whose friends objected to the match, unless the 
girl's parents would bestow fifty pounds as a dowry. 
She went to London, sold her hair to a wig-maker 
for sixty pounds, and triumphantly returned with the 
requisite sum. The daughter of an English clergy- 
man, who had left his family in poverty, sold her 
own rich profusion of glossy ringlets, to buy books 
for her brother in college. A poor young German 
girl, who lived at service, had very long auburn hair, 
so remarkable for its beauty, that wealthy ladies re- 
peatedly offered her large sums for it. She could 
never be persuaded to part with it ; but when, during 
the grievous wars of 1812 and 13, she saw the rich 
and the noble giving their jewels for the relief of 
poor soldiers, her shining tresses " of brown in the 
shadow, and gold in the sun," were silently and 
cheerfully laid on the altar of patriotism. Who, 
after this, will say that beautiful hair, or any other 
outward adorning, is the greatest ornament of wo- 
man? 



Modern marriages. 189 

The Catholics, Lutherans, and Episcopalians, usu- 
ally celebrate their marriages in church. Pope Inno- 
cent the Third is said to have been the first who in- 
stituted this custom. Centuries ago, the ceremony 
was performed at the door of the church, as if the 
interior of the building were too holy for the pur- 
pose; but now the young couple kneel before the 
altar, to receive their nuptial benediction. The Ca- 
tholics consider marriage as one of the sacraments. 

During the time of Cromwell, the Puritans, in their 
zeal to change all popish customs, good or bad, or- 
dered that marriages should be performed by magis- 
trates, instead of priests ; but the old custom was 
restored by Charles, and though marriages under the 
previous law were declared valid, many were so scru- 
pulous about the sanction of the church, that they were 
re-married by clergymen. The Eoman Catholic cler- 
gy are still required to live in celibacy, unless the pope 
grants them an especial license to take a wife ; and 
great numbers, both of men and women, seclude 
themselves in convents, from the idea that there is a 
peculiar sanctity in single life. In the Greek church, 
women under fifty years of age are not allowed to 
become nuns; their priests are required to marry, 
but in case of a wife's death are never permitted to 
marry again. Among the Protestants, I believe 
there is but one sect, who consider matrimony un- 
holy : the Shakers even require husband and wife to 
separate when they join their community. 

The wedding ceremonies vary in particulars, in 
different nations and districts, but there is a general 

VOL. TI. 13 



190 MODERN MARRIAGES. 

resemblance between all the Christian forms, The 
intention of marriage is proclaimed in the church, on 
three successive public days, in order that any one 
who has legal objections to the match, may have an 
opportunity to make them known. When the bride 
and bridegroom stand before the altar, the priest 
says to the man, " Wilt thou have this woman to be 
thy wedded wife, to live together after God's ordi- 
nance in the holy estate of matrimony ? Wilt thou 
love, honor, and comfort her, and keep her in sickness 
and in health; and forsaking all others, keep thee 
only unto her, so long as ye both shall live ?" The 
bridegroom answers, " I will." The same question 
is then asked of the bride, excepting that she is re- 
quired to " obey and serve," as well as " love and 
honor." Then her father, or guardian, giveth her to 
the bridegroom, who takes her by the right hand, 

saying, " I take thee, , to be my wedded wife, to 

have and to hold from this day forward, for better for 
worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, 
to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according 
to God's holy ordinance ; and thereto I plight thee 
my troth." The bride then takes him by the right 
hand and repeats the same form, with the addition 
of the word " obey." The bridegroom then puts a 
golden ring on the fourth finger of her left hand, say- 
ing, " With this ring I thee wed, and with all my 
worldly goods I thee endow ; in the name of the 
Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen." 
They then kneel before the altar, while the priest 
utters a prayer for their temporal and eternal wel- 



MODERN MARRIAGES. 191 

fare ; at the close of which, he joins their hand® 
together, saying, " What God has joined together, let 
no man put asunder." Among many of the Protes- 
tant sects, weddings are not celebrated in the church, 
but at the house of the bride's father, or some near 
relation. The members of the society of Friends 
have neither priest nor magistrate to officiate at the 
ceremony. The bride and bridegroom take each 
other by the hand, and make the required vows to 
each other, in presence of the congregation and the 
elders ; a public record of the transaction is made, 
and attested by witnesses. This society do not al- 
low their members to marry individuals of a different 
creed. In some parts of Switzerland, a marriage 
between a Protestant and a Catholic is illegal. 

It is a general idea that white is the most proper 
color for a bridal dress. Garlands and bouquets of 
orange-buds, and other purely white blossoms, are 
almost universally worn ; and pearls are considered 
the most appropriate jewels. In Holland, the apart- 
ment in which the bride habitually resides, and all 
the furniture in it, are decorated with garlands ; 
every thing belonging to the bridegroom, even his 
pipe and tobacco box, is adorned in the same man- 
ner ; and a triumphal arch is erected before the 
house, or festoons suspended at the entrance. Among 
the Tyrolese, and in several other parts of Europe, it 
is customary for the young couple to be escorted to 
church by a gay procession, wearing flowers and 
ribbons, dancing, playing on instruments of musie* 
and firing pistols by the way. A part of Bohemia* 



192 MODERN MARRIAGES. 

called Egra, seems to be the only place where a 
wedding is not considered an occasion of rejoicing. 
There it would be deemed indecorous for the bride to 
appear in white garments, or adorn herself with jewels 
and flowers. She wears her usual black dress, with 
a cloak of the same color, with a rosary in one hand, 
and in the other a veil, with which to cover her 
during the ceremony. In this dismal attire, she 
demurely proceeds to church, attended by relations, 
who preserve the utmost solemnity of countenance. 

In Lapland, it is death to marry a girl without 
consent of her friends. When a young man proposes 
marriage, the friends of both parties meet to witness 
a race between them. The girl is allowed at start- 
ing the advantage of a third part of the race ; if her 
lover does not overtake her, it is a penal offence for 
him ever to renew his offers of marriage. If the 
damsel favors his suit, she may run hard at first, to 
try his affection, but she will be sure to linger before 
she comes to the end of the race. Thus no marriages 
are made contrary to inclination, and this is the 
probable reason of so much domestic contentment in 
Lapland. 

In the cold climates of Lapland and Iceland, the 
bride, instead of garlands, wears a crown of silver 
gilt. In Russia, the priest places silver crowns on 
the heads of both the young couple ; at the marriages 
of people of rank, these crowns are held over their 
heads by attendants. In some districts, the peasant 
bride wears a wreath of wormwood; and in that 
country of perpetual flagellation, it is an appropriate 



MODERN MARRIAGES. 193 

emblem of her unhappy lot. After the nuptial bene- 
diction is pronounced*, it is likewise customary to 
throw a handful of hops on her head, with the wish 
that she may prove as fruitful as that vine. In some 
Russian villages, it is customary, before the bridal 
procession go to church, for a choir of young girls 
to chant this epithalamium : " A falcon flies in pur- 
suit of a dove. Charming dove, are you ready ? 
Your mate is come to seek you." The bride timid- 
ly answers, " Yes ;" and the procession moves for- 
ward. After the wedding ceremony is performed, 
the bridegroom has a right to give his bride "the kiss 
of love," holding her by the ears. The Sclavonian 
women, for a week previous to their marriage, are 
expected to kiss every man who visits them, in token 
of general respect and friendship for the sex. Some 
nations consider the ceremony of betrothal nearly as 
solemn as that of marriage. Among the Tyrolese, 
the father of the lover proceeds to the house of the 
beloved, accompanied by his younger sons, carrying 
baskets of honey-comb and aromatic plants. When 
he arrives, she and all her friends rise and salute him. 
" Welcome, my friend," says the head of the family ; 
" what brings thee among us ?" He replies, " As 
thou art a father, let me put a question to thy daugh- 
ter." He then steps up to the maiden, kisses her 
forehead, and says : " God bless thee, lovely girl, who 
remindest me of the days of my youth. I have a 
son ; he loves thee. Wilt thou make my declining 
years happy ?" If the damsel is too much em- 
barrassed to reply, her mother, who is the confidant 



194 MODERN MARRIAGES. 

of her sentiments, answers for her. The young man 
is then introduced, and receives a kiss from his new 
parents, and his future bride. Sometimes, in order 
to try the sincerity of their son's attachment, the old 
people will not allow him to be formally betrothed 
to the object of his choice, till he has made a tour 
into Switzerland, Bavaria, or Italy, to sell some of 
the productions of the country. " Go, earn thy 
wife," say they ; " a good husband must be able to 
earn bread for his family." The lover almost inva- 
riably returns unchanged, bringing the proceeds of 
his industry, with the ribbons still waving from his 
hat, which had been placed there by the idol of his 
heart. 

In some parts of Russia young people are solemnly 
betrothed, in presence of their families. A garment 
of skin is spread on the ground, and the young peo- 
ple kneel upon it. When they have interchanged 
rings, the girl's father places on their heads one of 
the household saints, and pronounces a blessing. In 
former times, he gave his daughter a few smart 
strokes of the whip, and then delivered the instru- 
ment of punishment to his future son-in-law, to sig- 
nify that he transferred authority to him ; but this 
brutal custom is now abolished. Russian husbands 
were formerly intrusted with power of life and death 
over their wives and children ; but this law is ame- 
liorated. In Scotland and some other parts of Great 
Britain, lovers, when they plight their troth to each 
other, break a small coin, and each one wears half of 
it next the heart. 



MODEKN MAHEflAGES. 195 

In Scotland, a mutual promise to consider each 
other husband and wife, if it be given in the presence 
of two witnesses, constitutes a lawful marriage ; and 
in that country, as well as some parts of Germany, 
if a man makes public acknowledgment that he 
considers a woman as his wife, it gives her, and all 
the children she may have borne to him, the same 
legal rights they would have had, if the marriage 
had been duly solemnized. 

In the polished circles of Europe, whose marriages 
are generally made par convenance, the affianced cou- 
ple do not have frequent opportunities of seeing each 
other, without the presence of friends. If a gentle- 
man prolonged a visit to his lady after the family 
had retired to rest, it would be regarded as extremely 
ungenteel and ridiculous, and in many places would 
by no means be permitted. 

In North Holland, a singular degree of freedom is 
allowed. A lover comes every Sunday evening " to 
have a talk" with the girl of his heart, and, having 
chosen some place apart from the rest of the family, 
often remains until daybreak. A custom called 
kweesten likewise prevails here, as well as in some 
parts of Switzerland and Wales. In this case, if the 
girl is coy, her admirer watches an opportunity to 
get in at her chamber window, and there urges his 
suit. This is so far from being considered any 
harm, that parents, who have marriageable daughters, 
do not scruple to leave a window open for the express 
purpose. Those who are shocked at this custom, 
will do well to remember that great restraints im- 



196 MODERN MARRIAGES. 

posed upon young people, however necessary they 
may be, are always an indication of a corrupt state 
of society. 

It is a general custom in all parts of Christendom 
for parents to give a dowry with their daughters, 
proportioned to their wealth ; even the poorest ge- 
nerally contrive to bestow a few articles of clothing 
or furniture. It is likewise an universal practice for 
friends to send presents to the bride, a few days pre- 
vious to the wedding. When the Welsh peasantry 
are about to enter into the matrimonial state, they 
send a man round to invite their friends, and to de- 
clare that any donations they may please to bestow 
will be gratefully received, and cheerfully repaid on 
a similar occasion. After the wedding party have 
partaken a frugal entertainment of bread and cheese, 
a plate is placed on the table to collect money from 
the guests ; and the young couple generally receive 
as much as fifty or a hundred pounds to furnish their 
household establishment. The village girls, in near- 
ly all countries, are ambitious about having a few 
pieces of cloth, and coverlids, woven in readiness for 
their marriage portion ; but in cities, the extreme 
poverty of the poor usually prevents even this simple 
preparation. In the Greek island of Himia, the in- 
habitants gain a livelihood by obtaining sponges for 
the Turkish baths ; and no girl is allowed to marry, 
till she has proved her dexterity by bringing up 
from the sea a certain quantity of this marketable 
article. 

Before the time of Francis the First, one hundred 



MODERN MARRIAGES. 197 

livres, about fifty pounds, was considered a very hand- 
some dowry for a young lady ; but at the present 
time, a fashionable and wealthy bride would expend 
a larger sum than that upon a single mirror. In all 
countries a feast is given to relations and friends, on 
the occasion of a daughter's wedding ; and the enter- 
tainment is more or less bountiful and splendid, ac- 
cording to the circumstances of the bride's family. 

After the ceremony is performed, all the guests 
congratulate the newly married pair, and wish them 
joy. The young couple generally choose from 
among their intimate friends some individuals to 
officiate as bride's maids and groom's men. These 
friends are dressed in bridal attire, and during the 
wedding ceremony stand on each side of the bride 
and bridegroom. In some places, the maidens chosen 
for this office carry the bride's gloves and handker- 
chief. In France, some people still retain the old 
custom of having a silken canopy supported over the 
heads of a young couple, by their attendants. Those 
who affect display have five or six bride's maids, and 
as many groom's men ; but it is more common to 
have one or two of each. The groom's men are ex- 
pected to make presents to the bride, and to be among 
the earliest friends, who call at her new abode. The 
wedding cake is usually much decorated with flowers, 
and sugar-work of various kinds. This is offered to 
all visiters, and a slice neatly done up in paper, 
and tied with white ribbons, is usually sent to inti- 
mate friends. The superstitious depend very much 
upon having a piece of wedding cake to place unde? 



198 MODERN MARRIAGES. 

their pillows ; and if nine new pins from the bride's 
dress are placed in it, the charm is supposed to be 
doubly efficacious. The object is to dream of the 
individuals they are destined to marry. Sometimes 
names are written on small slips of paper, rolled up, 
and placed beside the cake ; and the first one taken out 
in the morning reveals the name of the future spouse. 

The Tyrolese place a similar value upon the bride's 
garland, and the pins that fasten it. The bride scat- 
ters flowers from a basket among the young men of 
her acquaintance ; and these flowers prognosticate 
their future fortunes ; the honeysuckle and alpine 
lily promise uncommon prosperity, but the foxglove 
is an omen of misfortune. The Tyrolese bridegroom 
distributes ribbons among the girls, to the different 
colors of which they likewise attach prophetic mean- 
ing. The Dutch treat their wedding-guests with a 
kind of liquor called " the bride's tears ;" and small 
bottles of it, adorned with white and green ribbons, 
are sent as presents to friends, accompanied with 
boxes of sweetmeats. 

The time between the avowed intention of mar- 
riage and the performance of the bridal ceremony 
varies in different places, and among different ranks. 
One year seems to be the most general period of 
courtship ; but people of rank are often contracted to 
each other several years before marriage ; and in all 
nations there are some individuals who marry after 
a few months' or a few weeks' acquaintance. 

In Prussia, men are allowed to form what is called 
a left-handed marriage, in which the ceremonies are 



. MODERN LAWS. 199 

similar to other marriages, excepting that the left 
hand is used instead of the right. Under these cir- 
cumstances, neither the wife nor the children assume 
the name of the husband, or live in his house, or 
have a legal claim to dower, or succeed to his estate 
and titles ; but they receive what he pleases to give 
them during his lifetime, and at his death such lega- 
cies as are named in his will. These marriages are 
principally formed by poor nobles, who already have 
large families. European monarchs are not allowed 
to marry into any other than royal families ; but 
they sometimes form left-handed marriages with wo- 
men, who will not consent to be theirs on less hono- 
rable terms. 

By the Prussian laws, a man may be imprisoned, 
and fined half his fortune, or earnings, if he refuses to 
marry a woman, whom he has deceived with false 
promises. If he runs away, the woman may be mar- 
ried to him by proxy, and have a legal claim upon 
him for the maintenance of herself and child. 

The laws of most Christian countries do not allow 
females to dispose of themselves before they are 
twenty-one years old. If a girl over fourteen mar- 
ries without the knowledge of her parents, they can- 
not render the contract void ; but if they know of her 
intention, they .have power to forbid the union until 
she is of age. The consent of both parents is almost 
universally asked before young people are betrothed ; 
but after they are of age, the opposition of parents 
cannot prevent marriage, unless the lovers choose to 
submit, from motives of duty, or filial afFection. 



200 MODERN LAWS.. 

By the English laws, it is felony to abduct an 
heiress, even if her consent to matrimony is obtained 
after forcible abduction. He who compels a woman 
to marry by threats is subject to a very heavy fine, 
and two years' imprisonment. If any girl is forced 
or persuaded to marry, before she is twelve years old, 
the ceremony can be declared null and void. Very 
severe laws are made to protect females from person- 
al insult. Either man or woman may sue for a 
breach of promise of marriage, and recover a sum of 
money according to the aggravated nature of the cir- 
cumstances. If a father is displeased with his daugh- 
ter's marriage, he can refuse to bestow any dowry, 
and can make a will to prevent her receiving any por- 
tion of his fortune. Hereditary estates and titles do 
not descend to daughters so long as any sons are liv- 
ing ; but fathers can leave them by will such estates 
as are not restricted by some settlement or entail. 
As a general rule, parents bequeath a larger propor- 
tion to sons than daughters ; but where there is no 
will, property is equally divided. Among the rich, 
who settle marriage contracts with all possible for- 
mality, the bridegroom often binds himself to pay a 
certain annual sum to his wife, for her own peculiar 
use, which is called pin-money. This phrase proba- 
bly originated in ancient times, when prnamental pins 
constituted an important and expensive part of a 
lady's dress. It is deemed the husband's business to 
purchase furniture, and put the house in readiness 
for his bride. 

Not long ago, an English judge decided that the 



MODERN LAWS. 201 

law allowed a man to beat his wife with a stick as 
big as his thumb ; whereupon the ladies sent a re- 
quest that his thumb might be accurately measured. 
In the present state of public opinion, any man who 
availed himself of such permission would be dis- 
graced. Among the lower classes, a husband some- 
times puts a rope round his wife's neck, and sells her 
in the market ; but this is an adherence to old cus- 
tom not sanctioned by any law. 

A husband is bound to pay all the debts his wife 
may have contracted since she became of age, whe- 
ther he knew of their existence or not ; if she dies 
before payment is completed, his liability ceases. If 
a wife is driven away by ill usage, she can claim a 
separate maintenance, but the husband is no longer 
liable for her debts ; and if she runs away from his 
house, it is common to put an advertisement in the 
newspapers warning people that he has ceased to be 
responsible for expenses she may incur. Both par- 
ties can claim divorce, with leave to marry again, in 
cases of criminal intercourse. Where a woman 
claims divorce, the husband is adjudged to afford 
her a maintenance suitable to his wealth ; when a 
man seeks divorce, the wife's paramour is condemned 
to pay damages according to the discretion of the 
court. The court likewise decide with which of the 
separated parties the children are to remain. Some 
individuals, especially officers of the army and navy 
have thought there was something contemptible in 
adjudging a sum of money in reparation of so great 
an injury, and have chosen to revenge themselves by 



202 MODERN LAWS. 

single combat ; but the opinion of the civilized world 
has been growing more and more opposed to duelling; 
and it is to be hoped that the last traces of it will 
soon disappear before the light of the Gospel. 

A woman cannot dispose of any property, or bring 
an action at law, in her own name, during the life- 
time of her husband ; her signature to a note is of no 
legal value, because the law considers her as under 
the guardianship of her husband, and all her property 
as his. A widow is entitled to one third of her hus- 
band's estate, and any proportion of it may be inhe- 
rited by his will. Among the wealthy, the bride- 
groom, before marriage, often settles a jointure upon 
his bride, which cuts off her right of dower. If a 
man transfers any landed property without his wife's 
signature thereto, the purchaser always remains liable 
to relinquish a third of it to the widow. Whatever 
a woman earns, or inherits by legacy, becomes her 
husband's, and may be seized by his creditors, or a 
proportion of it divided among his relations, if he dies 
without children. To avoid these risks, the whole, 
or a part of a woman's fortune, whether inherited 
before or after marriage, is often put in the hands of 
trustees, for her especial use. This places it out of 
the power of creditors, unless it can be shown that 
the transfer was made with fraudulent intentions. 

In Germany such precautions are unnecessary, be- 
cause the law protects every article of a woman's 
property from the creditors of her husband. In 
France, a widow has no claim on any part of her 
husband's fortune, unless he dies without relations, 



MODERN LAWS. 203 

or a particular contract to that effect has heen made 
previous to marriage ; but she always retains a right 
to her dowry, and to any donations or legacies made 
to her. When a man has no children, he often wills 
his whole fortune to his wife; and if he has a family, 
leaves her one quarter of it, or half the income for 
life. It is likewise a common thing for women to 
bestow their fortunes on surviving husbands, by will. 
The right of primogeniture ceased with hereditary 
estates and titles ; and all the children of a French 
family now inherit an equal share of their parents' 
property. 

If a Spaniard has heirs in direct succession, his 
widow can claim only one fifth of the estate, out of 
which she is obliged to pay the funeral expenses. 
European women drop the name of their fathers 
when they marry, and assume that of their hus- 
bands. A woman cannot recover damages for breach 
of promise of marriage, either in France or Spain. 
In France, and some parts of Germany, in addition 
to the usual causes for divorce, it is allowable, when- 
ever both parties appear before magistrates, at suc- 
cessive periods, (the interval between which is pre- 
scribed by law,) and persevere in expressing a mutual 
wish for separation. Exceptions are frequently made 
to the usual laws, in favor of crowned heads. Philip, 
landgrave of Hesse, applied to Luther for permission 
to divorce his wife, and marry another, because his 
princess was plain in her person, sometimes intoxi- 
cated, and had a disagreeable breath. The royal 
petitioner threatened to apply to the pope for a dis- 



204 MODERN CUSTOMS. 

pensation, in case of refusal ; and the synod of six 
reformers, convoked by Luther, contrived to find 
good reasons for granting his request. In later 
times, Napoleon divorced Josephine, by decree of the 
senate, because she brought him no children. 

The women of Christian countries generally nurse 
their children about one year ; though many exceed 
that time. Among the Catholics and Lutherans, the 
ceremony of baptism is usually performed privately 
at the house of the minister, soon after the birth of 
the child, because they are in haste to administer a 
rite which they deem necessary for salvation ; but 
other Protestant sects have their children baptized in 
church, after divine service. The parents stand be- 
side each other when their child is offered for bap- 
tism. The father takes the infant from its mother's 
arms, and presents it to the priest, who sprinkles it 
with water, and bestows the baptismal name. Some 
people request several of their friends to stand as god- 
fathers and godmothers at the baptism of their chil- 
dren. Wealthy relations are very apt to have this 
compliment paid them, because they are expected to 
make the infant a present, and bound by a promise 
at the altar to take some interest in its welfare. 

In Holland, it is customary, so long as the mother 
keeps her room, to treat the children of the house - 
and even of the neighborhood, with sugar-plums, 
which are rough if the babe is a boy, and smooth i* 
a girl. In Russia, all married people who call to 
congratulate a friend for having become a mother 
are expected to slip a piece of money under her piJ- 
v jow , the wealthy 'isually give a ducat. 



MODERN CUSTOMS. 205 

It is uncommon for European women to study me- 
dicine for the purpose of attending upon their own 
sex, in seasons of illness; but in some cases it is 
practised with great success. 

Throughout Christendom, the law allows but one 
wife. Licentiousness abounds in all cities ; it is not 
confined to a class of women avowedly depraved, but 
sometimes lurks beneath the garb of decency, and 
even of elegance. In villages there is a better state 
of things, because the influences of rural life are more 
pure, and young people generally form marriages of 
inclination. Even in thrifty Scotland, and phlegma- 
tic Holland, matches of interest are common only 
among the wealthier classes. 

European laws allow widows to marry again, and 
they very frequently do so, without the slightest im- 
putation of impropriety ; but in all nations, she who 
remains in perpetual widowhood is involuntarily re- 
garded with peculiar respect. In some parts of Illy- 
ria and Dalmatia, if the bride or bridegroom have 
been previously married, but especially if the bride 
be a widow, the populace follow the wedding party, 
as they proceed to church, keeping up a continual din 
with frying-pans and shovels, and loading them with 
all manner of abuse ; sometimes they gather round 
the house, and make hideous noises all night long, 
unless the newly married pair purchase exemption by 
the distribution of wine. 

Some degree of blame is everywhere incurred by a 
widow who marries again within the time prescribed 
by custom; which is usually one year. Black is the 

VOL. II, 14 



206 GENERAL REMARKS. 

eolor of European mourning. The queens of France 
formerly wore white as an emblem of widowhood, 
and were therefore called reines blanches; but this 
custom was changed by Anne of Bretagne, who as- 
sumed black when Charles the Eighth died. The 
empress dowagers of Austria never lay aside their 
mourning, and their apartments are always hung 
with black. In England, the mourning worn on the 
death of any of the royal family is purple. The 
nieces of the pope never wear mourning for any 
relation. 

I believe France is the only country in Europe 
where women do not inherit the crown. There has 
been a comparatively greater proportion of good 
queens, than of good kings. Perhaps it may be that 
women, distrustful of their own strength, pay more 
attention to the public voice, and their government 
thus acquires something of the character of elective 
monarchies. But independent of this circumstance, 
illustrious queens have generally purchased celebrity 
by individual strength of character. In England, 
nothing was more common than to hear the people 
talk of king Elizabeth and queen James. Margaret, 
queen of Denmark and Norway, was called the Se- 
miramis of the North, on account of her capacity to 
plan and conduct great projects. Spain numbers 
among her sovereigns no one that can dispute prece- 
dence with the virtuous and highly-gifted Isabella of 
Castile. The annals of Africa furnish no example 
of a monarch equal to the brave, intelligent, and 
proud-hearted Zhinga, the negro queen of Angola; 



GENERAL REMARKS. 207 

and Catherine of Russia bears honorable comparison 
with Peter the Great, Blanche of Castile evinced 
great ability in administering the government of 
France, during the minority of her son ; and similar 
praise, is due to Caroline of England, during the ab- 
sence of her husband. 

In the walks of literature, women have gained 
abundant and enduring laurels; but it cannot be truly 
said that a Homer, a Shakspeare, a Milton, or a New- 
ton have ever appeared among them. It is somewhat 
singular that instances of great genius in the fine arts 
have been more rare among women than any other 
manifestations of talent. Propertia da Rossi, of Bo- 
logna, and the Hon. Mrs. Darner, of England, did 
indeed gain a considerable degree of distinction as 
sculptors, and Angelica KaufFman had a high repu- 
tation as a painter ; but these ladies have had few 
competitors. Yet in works requiring delicacy, inge- 
nuity, imagination, and taste, women are proverbial 
for excellence. 

When knowledge was confined to a few, and ap- 
plied principally to the acquisition of languages, 
which are merely the external forms of thought, men 
were pedantic, and women were the same ; for the 
correspondence between the character of the sexes is 
as intimate, as the affections and thoughts of the 
same individual. In these days, when knowledge is 
obtained to be applied to use, — when even that pretty 
and ever-varying toy, the kaleidoscope, is used to 
furnish new patterns at carpet-manufactories, — fe- 
male literature is universally more or less practical. 



208 GENERAL REMARKS. 

Modern female writers are generally known to be 
women who can make a pudding, embroider a collar, 
or dance a cotillon, as well as their neighbors. It is 
no longer deemed a mark of intellect to despise the 
homelier duties, or lighter graces of the social sys- 
tem. This will, in time, probably make men more 
liberal with regard to female learning. A writer in 
the time of Charles the First says, " She that know- 
eth how to compound a pudding is more desirable 
than she who skilfully compoundeth a poem. A fe- 
male poet I mislike at all times.'' Within the last 
century it has been gravely asserted that " chemistry 
enough to keep the pot boiling, and geography 
enough to know the location of the different rooms 
in her house, is learning sufficient for a woman." 
Byron, who was too sensual to conceive of a pure 
and perfect companionship between the sexes, would 
limit a woman's library to a Bible and a cookery 
book. All this is poor philosophy and miserable 
wit. It is on a par with the dictatorial assertions of 
the Austrian emperor, that his people will be better 
subjects, and far more happy, if they are not allowed 
to learn to read. 

One of the most striking characteristics of modern 
times is the tendency toward a universal dissemina- 
tion of knowledge in all Protestant communities. It 
is now a very common thing for women to be well 
versed in the popular sciences, and to know other 
languages than their own; and this circumstance, 
independent of the liberality and sincerity induced 
by true knowledge, has very perceptibly diminished 



GENERAL REMARKS. 209 

the tendency to literary affectation. Pedantry is 
certainly not the vice of modern times ; yet the old 
prejudice still lurks in the minds of men, who ought 
to be ashamed of it. It is by no means easy to find 
a man so magnanimous, as to be perfectly willing 
that a woman should know more than himself, on 
any subject except dress and cookery. 

That women are more fond of ornament than men 
is probably true ; but I doubt whether there is so 
much difference between the personal vanity of the 
sexes, as has been imagined. Dandies are a large 
class, if not a respectable one. No maiden lady was 
ever more irritable under a sense of personal deformi- 
ty than were Pope and Byron ; and Bonaparte was 
quite as vain of his small foot, as Madam de Stael 
of her beautiful arms. 

In searching the history of women, the mild, un- 
obtrusive domestic virtues, which constitute their 
greatest charm, and ought always to be the ground- 
work of their character, are not found on record. We 
hear of storms and tempests, and northern lights ; but 
men do not describe the perpetual blessing of sun- 
shine. 

The personal bravery evinced by women at all 
periods excites surprise. We hear scarcely any 
thing of the Phoenician women, except that they 
agreed to perish in the flames, if their countrymen 
lost a certain battle, and that they crowned with 
flowers the woman who first made that motion in 
the council. The Moorish women of Spain were 
full of this fiery spirit. When Boabdil wept at tak- 



210 GENERAL REMARKS. 

ing a farewell glance of beautiful Granada, his proud- 
hearted mother said, scornfully, " You do well to 
^eep for it like a woman, since you would not de- 
end it like a man." 

The old Hungarian women, when their country 
was invaded by the Turks, performed prodigies of 
iralor ; and now, among the predatory tribes of Illy- 
ria and Dalmatia, he who attempted to insult a girl, 
would find that she wore a dagger and pistol at her 
belt. But Christianity, which has done so much for 
woman — which, at a time when its pure maxims 
could produce nothing better, by reason of man's 
own evils, brought forth the generous spirit of chi- 
valry from the iron despotism of the middle ages — 
Christianity is removing the garlands from the bloody 
front of war, and teaching her sons and her daughters 
that evil must be " overcome with good." 

Women are apt to be more aristocratic than men ; 
for the habits of their life compel attention to details, 
and consequently make them more observing of man- 
ners than of principles. 

Where the Mohammedan religion prevails, man's 
reason is taught to bow blindly to faith, and his af- 
fections have little freedom to seek their correspond- 
ing truth ; in all such countries women are slaves. 

At those periods when reason has run wild, and 
men have maintained that there was no such thing 
as unchangeable truth, but that every one made it, 
according to the state of his own will — at such 
times, there has always been a tendency to have 
men and women change places, that the latter might 



GENERAL REMARKS 



211 



command armies and harangue senates, while men 
attended to domestic concerns. These doctrines 
were maintained by infidels of the French revolution, 
and by their modern disciple, Fanny Wright. 

Many silly things have been written, and are now 
written, concerning the equality of the sexes; but 
that true and perfect companionship, which gives 
both man and woman complete freedom in their 
places, .without a restless desire to go out of them, is 
as yet imperfectly understood. The time will come, 
when it will be seen that the moral and intellectual 
condition of woman must be, and ought to be, in 
exact correspondence with that of man, not only in 
its general aspect, but in its individual manifesta- 
tions; and then it will be perceived that all this 
discussion about relative superiority, is as idle as a 
controversy to determine which is most important to 
the world, the light of the sun, or the warmth of the 
sun. 





WOMEN IN SLAVE-HOLDING COUNTRIES, 



A separate article is appropriated to this subject? 
because slavery everywhere produces nearly the same 
effects on character ; but the story is briefly told, be- 
cause the details of that system are alike discredita- 
ble to man and woman. A recent writer who defends 
slavery has said that in slave-holding countries "wo- 
men are not beasts of burden." This is a gallant 
phrase to apply to all those ladies who live in coun- 
tries where the traffic in human beings is not intro- 
duced, like a plague-spot ? into the social system ; but 



SLAVE-HOLDING COUNTRIES. 213 

the chief fault to be found with it is, that it is founded 
on the common mistake of leaving out of the estimate 
all those whose complexions are not perfectly white. 
In all slave-holding communities, colored women are 
emphatically " beasts of burden ;" yet, under kindly 
influences, they are capable of the same moral and 
intellectual cultivation as other human beings. 

One of the worst features of this polluting system 
is that female slaves are neither protected by law, or 
restrained by public opinion. Their masters own 
them as property, and have despotic control over 
their actions ; and such is their degraded condition, 
that to be the mistress of a white man is an object 
of ambition rather than of shame. The same result 
would be produced upon any class of people under 
similar circumstances. They are taught from infancy 
that they have no character to gain or to lose ; and 
their whole moral code consists in one maxim — obe- 
dience to the white men. The personal kindness of 
their masters, though founded on the most impure 
feelings, is likely to shelter them in some degree from 
harsh treatment, and to procure for them those arti- 
cles of finery upon which all ignorant people place 
an inordinate value. The idea of obtaining money 
to purchase freedom is likewise a frequent incentive 
to immorality. It is not proposed to disgust the 
reader with a recapitulation of facts in proof of these 
remarks. It is sufficient to say that female virtue is 
a thing not even supposed to exist among slaves ; 
and that when individual instances of it occur, it 
sometimes meets with severe castigation, and gene- 
is ridicule. 



214 SLAVE-HOLDING COUNTRIES. 

It may well be supposed that those who are deli- 
cately termed " favorite slaves," sometimes become 
very pert and impudent, in consequence of their situ* 
ation in their master's family. A female slave in 
Baltimore was, for obvious reasons, very odious in 
the eyes of her mistress, who let no opportunity 
escape of getting her flogged for some misdemeanor, 
real or pretended. The master, for reasons equally 
obvious, was always reluctant to give orders for her 
punishment ; but he was sometimes obliged to do so, 
for the sake of domestic peace. On such occasions, 
the slave flounced about the house, and boasted that 
every whipping he ordered her should cost him a 
handsome sum for broken china. 

Stedman relates that Mrs. S — Ik— r, of Surinam, 
having observed, among some newly imported slaves. 
a negro girl of remarkably fine figure and expressive 
countenance, immediately ordered the poor creature's 
mouth, cheeks, and forehead to be burned with red- 
hot iron, and the tendon of her heel to be cut. These 
cruel orders were given from mere prospective jea- 
lousy of her husband ; and to gratify this wicked 
passion, the unoffending girl was maimed and de- 
formed for life. 

One of the most observable effects produced by 
this system, is that it invariably induces the habit of 
not considering a large number of men, women, and 
children in the same light as other human beings ; 
hence the most common maxims of justice and mo- 
rality, recognised in all other cases, are not supposed 
to apply to slaves. The dimness of moral perception 



SLAVE-HOLDING COUNTRIES. 215 

and the obtuseness of moral feeling, produced by this 
state of things, sometimes come out in forms very 
shocking to those who are unaccustomed to the sys- 
tem. Miss G , of South Carolina, being on a 

visit to an intimate friend of the writer, certain ladies, 
who were present, began to talk on the never-failing 
topic of domestics. " You do not have the trouble 
of such frequent changes," said one of them to Miss 

G ; " but I should think you would find it very 

disagreeable to be surrounded by so many slaves." 
u Not at all disagreeable," replied the lady from 
South Carolina ; " I have always been accustomed 
to blacks; I was nursed by one of them, of whom I 
was very fond. As for good looks, I assure you 
some of them are very handsome. I had a young 
slave, who was an extremely pretty creature. A 
gentleman, who visited at our house, became very 
much in love with her. One day she requested me 
to speak to that gentleman, for she did not wish to 
be his mistress, and he troubled her exceedingly. 
I did speak to him, begging him to change his con- 
duct, as his attentions were very disagreeable to my 
slave. For a few weeks he desisted ; but at the end 
of that time, he told me he must have that girl, at 
some rate or other ; he offered me a very high price ; 
I pitied the poor fellow, and sold her to him." 

Miss G was an unmarried woman, with correct 

ideas of propriety concerning those of her own co- 
lor ; but having been educated under a system that 
taught her to regard a portion of the human race as 
mere animals, she made the above remarks without 



216 SLAVE-HOLDING COUNTRIES. 

the slightest consciousness that there was any thing 
shameful in the transaction. 

Pinckard, in his Notes on the West Indies, speaks 
in terms of strong disgust, of the entire want of mo- 
desty evinced by women in cases where their female 
slaves were concerned. " It is to the advantage of the 
hostess of a tavern," says he, " that the female atten- 
dants of her family should be as handsome as «he can 
procure them. Being slaves, the only recompense of 
their services is the food they eat, the hard bed they 
sleep on, and the few loose clothes which are hung 
upon them. One privilege, indeed, is allowed them, 
which you will be shocked to know; and this offers 
the only hope they have of procuring a sum of mo- 
ney, wherewith to purchase their freedom : and the 
resource among them is so common, that neither 
shame nor disgrace attaches to it ; but, on the con- 
trary, she who is most sought becomes an object of 
envy, and is proud of the distinction shown her. 

" One of our attendants at table appeared, both 
from her conversation and behavior, to be very supe- 
rior to her degraded station. She had nothing of 
beauty, nor even prettiness of face, but she was of 
good figure, and of respectable and interesting de- 
meanor, and, in point of intellect, far above her col- 
leagues. Together with gentleness of manner, and 
an easy, pleasant address, she possesses a degree of 
understanding and ability which claim respect. In 
principle and in sentiment she appeared virtuous; 
and, from the frankness of her replies, it was evident 
that she knew no sense of wrong in her conduct, 



SLAVE-HOLDING COUNTRIES. 217 

We could not but lament, that the imperious habits 
of the country did not allow of her being placed as a 
more respectable member of society. 

" This woman is the great support of the house — 
the bar-maid, and leading manager of the family. 
Her mistress had refused to take one hundred guineas 
for her ; which, she assured us, had been offered by 
a gentleman, who would have purchased her. She 
has a very lively, interesting little daughter, a Mestee, 
about four years old. Of this child she spake with 
great tenderness, and appeared to bear it all the fond 
attachment of an affectionate parent. Yet, as the 
infant was born in slavery, should the mother by any 
means obtain her freedom, she cannot claim her 
child, but must leave it, still the disposable property 
of her mistress, equally liable to be sold as any other 
piece of furniture in the house.' , 

This same habit of putting slaves out of the pale of 
humanity, leads to great carelessness in sundering the 
ties of domestic affection. The slave mother and her 
little ones are advertised for sale " either singly, or 
in lots, to suit purchasers." If the will of the pur- 
chaser separates them, the wretched parent in vain 
shrieks, " I can't leave my children ! I won't leave my 
children !" With all the kind instincts of human 
nature strong within her, she is an article of proper- 
ty ; and resistance is useless. In old times, when 
slavery was sanctioned in Massachusetts, a wealthy 
lady residing in Gloucester was in the habit of giving 
away the infants of her female slaves, a few days 
after they were born, as people are accustomed to 



* 
218 SLAVE-HOLDING COUNTRIES. 

dispose of a litter of kittens. One of her neighbors 
begged an infant, which, in those days of comparative 
simplicity, she nourished with her own milk, and 
reared among her own children. This woman had 
an earnest desire for a brocade gown ; and her hus- 
band not feeling able to purchase one, she sent her 
little nursling to Virginia, and sold her, when she 
was about seven years old. 

People who have never been under the influence 
of this system, are reluctant to believe that slave- 
owners make no scruple of selling their own mulatto 
children ; but those who have long resided in slave 
countries know perfectly well that it is a fact of fre- 
quent occurrence. One of the most singular in- 
stances of this kind occurred a few years since. 

Doctor W went into one of the south-western of 

the United States to settle as a physician. In one of 
the families where he visited in the course of his 
practice, he saw a girl in a humble situation, who 
was very handsome in her person, and modest in her 
manners. He became in love with her, and married 
her. Sometime after, a gentleman called, and an- 
nounced himself as Mr. I r , of Mobile. " Sir," 

said he, " I have a trifling affair of business to settle 
with you. You have married a slave of mine." 

Dr. W was surprised and indignant ; for he 

had supposed his wife to be perfectly white. But 

Mr. I r brought forward proofs of his assertion, 

and the unrighteous laws of the land supported his 
claim. After considerable discussion, the young 
man found he must either pay eight hundred dollars, 



SLAVE-HOLDING COUNTRIES. 219 

or suffer his wife to be sold at auction. He paid the 
money. When Mrs. W. was informed of the circum- 
stance, she was in deep distress, and apologized to 
her husband for the concealment she had practised, 

by saying, " As Mr. I r is my own father, I did 

hope when I had found an honorable protector he 
would leave me in peace." 

Another great evil resulting from this system, is 
the tyrannical habits and impetuous passions that 
are unavoidably developed by early habits of despotic 
sway. The manner of speaking to a slave is almost 
universally haughty and contemptuous. Delicate, 
languid, and graceful ladies, who would cherish a 
lapdog, and shrink from harming a butterfly, will, in 
a moment of anger, seize the whip and chastise a 
slave for the slightest fault, and sometimes for errors, 
which in their calmer moments they discover were 
never committed. If all history did not prove that 
the possession of absolute power is apt to produce a 
species of insanity, it would be difficult to believe the 
occasional demonstrations of vindictive passions in 
slave countries. 

A young man from Missouri lately related, at a 
public meeting in Ohio, the following circumstance 
which took place in his own state. A young slave, 
who had been much abused, ran away, after an unu- 
sually severe whipping. She returned in a few days, 
and was sent into the field to work. In consequence 
of excessive punishment she was very ill ; and when 
she reached the house at night, she lay down on the 
floor exhausted. When her mistress spoke to her, 



220 SLAVE-HOLDING COUNTRIES, 

she made no reply. She again asked what was the 
matter, but received no answer. " I '11 see if I can 't 
make you speak," exclaimed she, in a rage ; and she 
applied red-hot tongs to her limbs and throat. The 
poor girl faintly whispered, " Oh, misse, do n't ; I 'm 
most gone" — and expired. 

Such cruelties probably are not of common occur- 
rence ; but the habits of indolence, acquired by hav- 
ing slaves to obey every look, are universal. Ladies 
thus educated consider it a hardship to untie a string, 
or pick up a handkerchief that has fallen. A slave 
must be always near them to perform such offices. 
Even after the family have retired to rest, some of 
their locomotive machinery must be within call. A 
lady, having heard surprise expressed at this cus- 
tom, replied with much earnestness, " Mercy ! what 
should I, or my husband do, if we happened to 
want a glass of water in the night, and there was 
nobody near to bring it !" A little girl, whose pa- 
rents removed from Massachusetts to South Caroli- 
na, complained that she had an utter aversion to go- 
ing to school, it was so fatiguing to carry her books. 
All the other little girls had slaves to carry them. 

Among the women of slave countries there is a 
tendency to mental as well as physical indolence. 
They are often more elegant and graceful than ladies 
educated under a more healthy system ; but they are 
far less capable, industrious, and well-informed. 

The slaves themselves are brutally ignorant. In 
several of the United States, there are very strict 
laws to prevent their learning the alphabet. 



SLAVE-HOLDING COUNTRIES. 221 

Early habits of allowed profligacy in men form a 
bad school for the domestic affections ; and a wife 
who sees herself neglected for others, with a great 
deal of unemployed time on her own hands, is placed 
in circumstances where she has need of great strength 
of principle. According to Stedman's account, these 
influences have produced a lamentable effect on the 
character of women in Surinam ; though there are 
there, as elsewhere, honorable exceptions to the ge- 
neral tone of manners and morals. 

Human beings are generally merry and thoughtless 
in proportion as their wants are merely animal ; and 
slaves are light-hearted, both by habit and natural 
temperament. The memory of suffering soon passes 
away; and during every interval of labor they will 
sing, dance, and laugh, as if the world had no cares for 
them. Pinckard, speaking of the British West Indies, 
says : " Sunday is a day of festivity among the slaves. 
They are passionately fond of dancing ; and the Sab- 
bath, offering them an interval from toil, is generally 
devoted to their favorite amusement. Instead of re- 
maining in tranquil rest, they undergo more fatigue, 
or at least more personal exertion, during their gala 
hours of Saturday night and Sunday, than is de- 
manded of them in labor during any four days of the 
week. They assemble in crowds upon the open 
green, or in any square or corner of the town, and 
forming a ring in the centre of the throng, dance to 
the sound of their beloved African music, consisting 
of a species of drum, a kind of rattle, and their ever 
delightful banjar. The dance consists of stamping 

VOL. II. 15 



222 SLAVE- HOLDING COUNTRIES. 

of the feet, twisting of the body, and a number of 
strange, indecent attitudes. It is a severe bodily 
exertion, more bodily indeed than you can well ima- 
gine, for the limbs have little to do with it." 

The clothing of slaves is generally the slightest 
possible, and of the coarsest materials. Pinckard 
speaks of seeing old women at Barbadoes washing 
clothes in the river, with no other covering than a 
piece of blue cloth fastened round the loins, after the 
manner of savages. He says " their bodies bore the 
crowded and callous scars of repeated punishment." 

In the West Indies, the negro women carry their 
babes across the hip, as in Africa. 

Small rude huts are appropriated to the field slaves, 
where they live much after the fashion of pigs in a 
sty. Those who are kept for house-servants gene- 
rally lie down upon the floor, wherever they happen 
to be when the labors of the day are over. A person 
rising earlier than usual, is liable to stumble over 
them in the entries. Female slaves toil in the fields, 
under the lash of the driver, as laboriously as the 
men ; and, generally speaking, no difference is made 
in the mode or severity of punishment. A little 
patch of ground is usually assigned to each slave 
family, where they may raise vegetables for them- 
selves, in addition to the tasks performed for their 
masters. Many of them spend their leisure moments 
in making baskets and brooms to carry to market, 
and thus procure a little money. 

The negroes believe they shall return to Africa 
when they die ; and this idea has often led to sui* 



&L AVE -HOLDING COUNTRIES. 22S 

cide. They follow a friend to the grave with every 
demonstration of joy; and when the ceremony is 
finished, sing : " God bless you, Jenny- — Good-bye — * 
remember me to all friends t'other side of the sea- 
tell 'em me come soon — Good-bye, Jenny," 

The influence of slavery is in every sense injurious 
to the slave. As they derive no benefit from being 
industrious, they try to evade labor, under all manner 
of false pretexts ; and the more time they can waste? 
the more they think they have gained. They do 
not, like free laborers, fear to be dishonest, lest they 
should lose their character and place ; but the com- 
pensation which is not given they conceive them- 
selves at liberty to take. It is a common thing for 
them to say, " Me no steal him ; me take him from 
massa." Persons who are most kind and indulgent 
to their slaves are often liable to be served in the most 
negligent manner. Some have unjustly ascribed this 
to the bad disposition of the Africans ; but the fault 
is in the pernicious system, which removes all salu- 
tary moral restraints, and healthy incentives to ex- 
ertion. No human being will work from a disinte- 
rested love of toil ; and slaves soon learn that they 
gain nothing by industry, and lose nothing by lazi- 
ness ; in either case they get something to eat, and 
something to cover them — and their greatest exer- 
tions will do no more. Under a severe master or 
mistress, they will work, from fear of the whip, which 
a driver is paid to hold over their backs ; but when 
this is removed, no other inducement to industry 
remains. 



224 SLAVE-HOLDING COUNTRIES. 

In all slave countries, there are many honorable 
exceptions to the character implied in the preceding 
remarks — men and women who conscientiously en- 
deavor to mitigate the condition of their slaves, as far 
as possible. Instances of strong mutual attachment 
sometimes occur, between masters and their depen- 
dents, as there did in the proud old feudal times. 
The negro nurse is called " mammy," by those whom 
she tended in their infancy, and is sometimes treated 
with so much tenderness, that her young master and 
mistress will resent it if an unkind word be spoken to 
her. The negroes are of an affectionate disposition, 
and are often devoted to their foster-children with 
all the strength of maternal affection. During a tre- 
mendous earthquake in St. Domingo, when others 
were saving themselves with all haste, a young fe- 
male slave remembered a white infant, forgotten by 
its own mother. She hastened to her nursling, and 
placing herself in an arch over its body, was killed 
by the tumbling walls of the house ; but the little 
object of her solicitude was safely restored to its 
agonized parents. 

But although there are here and there spots of 
sunshine and verdure in the dark picture of slavery, 
the natural tendency of the system is to turn any 
form of society into a moral desert. Christian na- 
tions are beginning to be aware of this ; and the 
hand of Divine Providence is now visibly seen re- 
moving this " costly iniquity 1 ' from the face of the 
earth. 




The mother of Washington receiving Lafayette in her garden. 



AMERICA 



Before America was settled by Europeans, it was 
inhabited by Indian tribes, which greatly resembled 
each other in the treatment of their women. Every 
thing except war and hunting was considered beneath 
the dignity of man. During long and wearisome 
marches, women were obliged to carry children, pro- 
visions, and hammocks on their shoulders ; they had 
the sole care of the horses and dogs, cut wood, 
pitched the tents, raised the corn, and made the 
clothing. When the husband killed game, he left 



226 AMERICAN INDIANS. 

it by a tree in the forest, returned home, and sent his 
wife several miles in search of it. In most of the 
tribes, women were not allowed to eat and drink with 
men, but stood and served them, and then ate what 
they left. 

When the Spaniards arrived in South America, 
the Indian women, delighted with attentions to 
which they had been entirely unaccustomed, often 
betrayed the conspiracies formed against them, sup- 
plied them with food, and acted as guides. 

Father Joseph reproved a female savage on the 
banks of the Orinoco, because she destroyed her in- 
fant daughter. She replied, " I wish my mother had 
thus prevented the manifold sufferings I have en- 
dured. Consider, Father, our deplorable situation. 
Our husbands go out to hunt ; we are dragged along 
with one infant at our breast, and another in a bas- 
ket. Though tired with long walking, we are not 
allowed to sleep when we return, but must labor the 
whole night in grinding maize to make chica for 
them. They get drunk, and beat us, draw us by the 
hair of the head, and tread us under foot. And after 
a slavery of perhaps twenty years, what have we to 
comfort us ? A young wife is then brought home, 
and permitted to abuse us and our children. What 
kindness can we show our daughters equal to putting 
them to death ? Would to God my mother had put 
me under ground the moment I was born. ,, 

The Mexicans and Peruvians, particularly the lat- 
ter, were more enlightened and refined than the other 
native tribes. The wch ornaments of gold and pearl 



AMERICAN INDIANS. 227 

worn by the Peruvians, surprised their European vi- 
siters, even more than the gentleness, modesty, and 
benevolence of their characters. They had a temple 
of the sun, to whose service young virgins were de- 
dicated, and instructed in many accomplishments. 

The parents of a young Mexican having selected 
a suitable wife, priests are consulted, and the match 
concludes or not, according to their predictions. If 
their answers are favorable, the girl is asked of her 
parents by certain women styled solicitors, who are 
chosen from the most respectable of the youth's 
kindred. The first demand is always refused; the 
second receives a more favorable answer ; and when 
consent is finally obtained, the bride, after proper ex- 
hortation from her parents, is conducted to the house 
of her father-in-law. If wealthy, she is carried in a 
litter. The bridegroom and his relations receive her 
at the gate, where four women are stationed bearing 
torches. As soon as the young couple meet, they 
offer incense to each other. They then sit on a cu- 
riously wrought mat, in the centre of the hall, near 
the fire, and the priest ties the bride's gown to the 
bridegroom's mantle. They offer sacrifices to the 
gods, and exchange presents. The guests are then 
entertained with feasting and dancing in the open 
air; but the newly married are shut up in the 
house for four days. At the end of that period they 
appear in their richest attire, and give dresses to the 
company, in proportion to their wealth. 

Gumilla, in his History of the River Orinoco, says 
there is one nation that marry old men to girls and 



228 AMERICAN INDIANS. 

old women to lads, that age may correct the petu- 
lance of youth. They say, to join together people 
equal in youth and imprudence, is to join one fool to 
another. The first marriage is however only a kind 
of apprenticeship ; for after a while the young people 
are allowed to marry those of their own age. 

Among several tribes of North American Indians, 
the lover begins his suit by going at midnight to the 
tent, or lodge, of his mistress. He lights a splinter 
of wood, and holds it to her face to awaken her. If 
she leaves the torch burning, it is a signal that she 
rejects him ; but if she blows it out, he understands 
that he is at liberty to communicate his intentions. 

In some places, when the lover approaches the hut 
of his mistress, he begs leave to enter it by signs. 
If permission is obtained, he goes in and sits down 
by her in silence. If she suffers him to remain, with- 
out any expression of disapprobation, it is an indica- 
tion that she favors his suit ; but if she offers him 
food or drink, he understands it as a refusal. 

Indian marriages are generally performed in the 
following manner : The young couple are seated on 
a mat in the centre of the room. The bride, or 
bridegroom, hold a rod or wand between them, while 
some elderly person harangues them concerning 
their reciprocal duties. He tells the husband that 
he must catch plenty of venison and furs for his 
wife : and the bride is urged to cook his food well, 
mend his clothes, and take off his moccasins and leg- 
gins, when he comes home from hunting. The rod 
is then broken, and a piece given to the witnesses, in 



AMERICAN INDIANS. 229 

testimony of the contract. The company form a 
circle and dance and sing around them. Before they 
separate, they partake of a plentiful feast provided 
for the occasion. A strap, a kettle, and a fagot, are 
put into the bride's apartment, in token of her 
employments. At Dacotah weddings, the bride is 
carried forcibly to her husband's dwelling, making 
resistance at every step. In some parts of Old Mexi- 
co, the bridegroom was carried off by his relations, 
as if he were the one forced into wedlock. A 
Dacotah lover puts on leggins of different colors, 
seats himself on a log near the wigwam of his be- 
loved, and sings, or plays on some musical instru- 
ment. The following has been given as a sample of 
Indian love-songs, by a writer well acquainted with 
their manners : 

" She is handsomer than scarlet or wampum ; 

I will put on a blue leggin and run after her ; 

And she will flee as if afraid. 

But I see, as she turns her head over her shoulder. 

And mocks and laughs, and rails at me, 

That her fears are nothing but pretence. 

She is handsomer than scarlet and wampum ; 

I will put on a blue leggin and run after her." 

The Indians, both men and women, had great love 
of finery. Their caps, belts, and moccasins were 
plentifully embroidered with beads and shells, which 
they called wampum. The chiefs considered a coro- 
net of feathers peculiarly beautiful ; but this orna- 
ment, generally indicative of successful war, was sel- 
dom worn by women. But even among these rude 
people, jokes concerning female love of dress were not 
wanting. A few years since, the writer conversed 



230 AMERICAN INDIANS. 

with two Penobscot Indians, the one old, the other 
young, and very handsome. The youth wore a scar- 
let band upon his hat, and his wampum belt was cu- 
riously embroidered ; the other had an old blanket 
carelessly wrapped about him. " Where is your 
wampum belt ?" said I. With a look of quiet scorn, 
he replied, " What for me wear ribbons and beads ? 
Me no want to catch 'em squaw."^ 

Among the Hohays are men who dress in a female 
garb, and perform all manner of female avocations. 
They are called Winktahs, and treated with the ut- 
most contempt. 

The Indian bridegroom generally pays his father- 
in-law for his bride ; and even in their primitive form 
of society, he who can offer a large price is most 
likely to be acceptable to parents. Handsome Indian 
girls are not unfrequently disposed of contrary to 
their inclinations. They are not permitted to marry 
relations within so near a degree of consanguinity as 
cousins. Suicide is common among the women of 
these savage tribes. When thwarted in love, or 
driven to desperation by ill usage, they frequent- 
ly hang themselves to the branch of a tree, rush 
into the sea, or throw themselves from a preci- 
pice. The men very rarely destroy their own lives. 
They seldom have more than one wife at a time ; but 
they change just when they please, interchange with 
each other, and lend to visiters, without scandal. 
When a wife becomes old, a younger one is often 
purchased ; and the first one may either kill her- 

* Indians call their women squaws, and infants papooses. 



AMERICAN INDIANS. 231 

Self, or tamely submit to be the drudge of the family, 
In several tribes, the pieces of stick given to the wit- 
nesses at the marriage are burnt, in sign of divorce. 
But, generally speaking, new connections are formed 
without any formal dissolution of the old one. 

When the sachem of Saugus married the daughter 
of the chief of Pennakook, a great feast was given ? 
and the bride and bridegroom escorted to their dwell- 
ing by some of the most honorable men of her fa- 
ther's tribe, who were feasted several days at the 
expense of the husband. Some time after, the wife 
expressed a wish to visit her father, and was permit- 
ted to do so, with a select escort to accompany her. 
When she desired to return, the old chief sent to the 
sachem to come and take her away. This offended 
the young man's pride. " I sent her to you in a 
manner that became a chief," he replied ; " and now 
that she intends to return to me, I expect the same 
from you." The chief of Pennakook considered this 
an insolent message. He would not allow his daugh- 
ter to return unless her husband sent for her ; the 
sachem would not submit to the terms ; and the 
young couple saw each other no more. 

The Indians pride themselves on stoicism, and at 
no period of their history have been addicted to vo- 
luptuousness. Their sense of manliness and dignity 
prevents them from being immodest. In this respect, 
their deportment towards women is abundantly more 
praiseworthy than that of civilized nations. 

When it was proposed (either facetiously or other- 
wise) that women should be members of parliament, 



232 AMERICAN INDIANS. 

an Englishman objected to it, on the ground that a 
lady, who sat with committees of gentlemen, might 
sometimes meet with a species of impoliteness that 
would be embarrassing. If this be a reason why- 
women should not transact public business, it is a 
fact exceedingly disgraceful to civilized men. Fe- 
male captives taken by Indians, though treated with 
the most diabolical cruelty, according to their savage 
mode of warfare, have travelled with powerful warri- 
ors days and weeks, through the loneliest paths of 
the forest, and never been subjected to the slightest 
personal insult. 

Notwithstanding the habitual taciturnity of In- 
dians, and their pride of concealing all emotion, the 
potent passion of love sometimes gets the mastery of 
them, as well as of other men. One of their strong- 
est excitements to bravery, is the hopes of gaining 
favor in the bright eyes of some beautiful maiden ; 
and it is often a matter of peculiar pride with them 
to obtain the handsomest furs to decorate a wife, and 
to furnish an abundant supply of venison for her 
comfortable subsistence. An Indian woman is al- 
ways proud of having a good hunter for a husband ; 
and a lover is often told that he must signalize him- 
self by more daring exploits, before he can hope to be 
received into favor. 

Mr. Heckewelder, in his interesting account of the 
American Indians, relates the following anecdote : 
" In the year 1762, I was witness to a remarkable 
instance of the disposition of Indians to indulge their 
wives. There was a famine in the land, and a sick 



AMERICAN INDIANS. 233 

Indian woman expressed a great desire for a mess of 
Indian corn. Her husband, having heard that a 
trader at Lower Sanduskv had a little, set off on 
horseback for that place, one hundred miles distant, 
and returned with as much corn as filled the crown 
of his hat, for which he gave his horse in exchange, 
and came home on foot, bringing his saddle back 
with him. 

" It very seldom happens that an Indian conde- 
scends to quarrel with his wife, or abuse her, though 
she has given him just cause. In such a case, the 
man, without replying, or saying a single word, will 
take his gun and go into the woods, and remain 
there a week, or perhaps a fortnight, living on the 
meat he has killed, before he returns home again ; 
well knowing that he cannot inflict a greater punish- 
ment on his wife for her conduct to him, than by ab- 
senting himself for a while ; for she is not only kept 
in suspense, uncertain whether he will return again, 
but is soon reported as a bad and quarrelsome wo- 
man ; for, as on those occasions a man does not tell 
his wife on what day or at what time he will be 
back again, which he never, when they are on good 
terms, neglects to do, she is at once put to shame by 
her neighbors, who, soon suspecting something, do 
not fail to put such questions to her as she either 
cannot, or is ashamed to answer. When he at 
length does return, she endeavors to let him see, by 
her attentions, that she has repented, though neither 
speak to each other a single word on the subject of 
what has passed. And as his children, if he has any* 



«?34 AMERICAN INDIANS. 

will on his return hang about him, and soothe him 
with their caresses, he is on their account ready to 
forgive, or at least to say nothing unpleasant to 
their mother." 

The women of these savage tribes, like the female 
peasantry of Europe, have very hardy constitutions. 
When an infant is a few hours old, they carry it to 
some neighboring stream and plunge it in the water, 
even if they have to break the ice for that purpose. 
Until it is old enough to crawl about, they lay it 
down on a clean piece of bark, while they attend to 
their customary avocations ; when obliged to travel, 
they carry it swung at their backs, in a strip of cloth, 
or a basket. Some tribes have the habit of placing 
boys on the skin of a panther, and girls on that of a 
fawn, from an idea that they will imbibe the qualities 
of those animals. Names are usually bestowed to 
indicate some personal or moral quality ; as Parrot- 
nosed, Serpent-eyed, The Timid Fawn, &c. These 
names are often added to others, signifying The First 
Son, The Second Son, The First Daughter, &c. 

Most of the North American tribes make it a fun- 
damental principle of education never to strike a 
child. When a fault is committed, the mother be- 
gins to cry ; if her son or daughter ask what is the 
matter, she replies, "You disgrace me." This re- 
proach is keenly felt, and generally produces amend- 
ment. If a young person is more obdurate than 
common, the parents throw a glass of water in his 
face, and this is considered a most disgraceful pu- 
nishment. They seldom refuse a child any thing. 



AMERICAN INDIANS. 235 

Hence when the avenger of blood is implacable, the 
culprit is often led into his presence by a little child, 
prettily adorned, and taught to lisp a prayer for par- 
don ; and a petition for mercy from such innocent 
lips, is rarely denied even by the sternest warrior. 
Pocahontas was only twelve years old when her in- 
tercession saved the life of captain Smith. 

Both girls and boys are early taught to endure 
without a murmur the utmost rigors of climate, ex- 
cess of labor, and the extremity of pain. It is com- 
mon to try their fortitude by ordering them to hold 
their hands in the fire, till permission is given to 
withdraw them ; and if even their countenances give 
indication of agony, it is deemed dishonorable. 
When taken captive in war they have need of their 
utmost powers of endurance ; for their enemies exer- 
cise all their ingenuity in torture. Yet such is the 
force of education, that women, as well as men, will 
smile and utter jeering words, while their nails are 
pulled out by the roots, their feet crushed between 
stones, and their flesh torn with red-hot pincers. 

It is an almost universal rule that women are more 
tender-hearted than men ; but the North American 
Indians seem to furnish an exception. When a pri- 
soner is tied to the stake, women are even more furi- 
ous and active than men, in the work of cruelty. If 
any one of the tribe chooses to adopt the prisoner, 
his life is spared, and they cease to torment him. 
Parents, who have lost their own children in battle, 
often resort to this expedient, and bring up their 
adopted sons and daughters with great kindness. 



236 AMERICAN INDIANS* 

The power of Indian husbands is absolute. If they 
detect a wife in unfaithfulness, they generally cut off 
her nose, or take off part of her scalp. In a sudden 
fit of anger they sometimes kill both her and her 
paramour ; and this goes unpunished, though it is 
considered more proper to call a council of the elders 
to decide the matter. Those stern old men do not 
approve of very furious transports on such occasions; 
because they deem it undignified to make such a fuss 
about a woman, so long as the world contains plenty 
of individuals to supply her place. 

Dancing was a common amusement with the In- 
dians. Their war-dances were performed by men ; 
but there were others appropriated to women, or in 
which both sexes united. Captain Smith gives the 
following account of an " anticke " prepared by Po- 
cahontas for his reception at her father's place of 
residence : " Thirty young women came out of the 
woods, covered onely with a few greene leaues, their 
bodies all painted, some of one colour, some of an- 
other, but all differing. Their leader had a fayre 
payre of bucks homes on her head, and an otter- 
skinne at her girdle, and another at her arme, a qui- 
ver of arrowes at her backe, a bow and arrows in 
her hand. The next had in her hand a sword, and 
another a club, another a pot-sticke, all homed alike ; 
the rest every one with their seuerall devises. These 
fiends, with most hellish shouts and cryes, rushing 
from amonof the trees, cast themselves in a rino- 
about the fire, singing and dancing with most excel- 
lent ill varietie, oft falling into their infernal! pas- 



AMERICAN INDIANS. 23f 

sions, and solemnly again to sing and daunce. Hav- 
ing spent neare an houre in this mascarado, as they 
entred, in like manner they departed*" 

Captain Smith does not give a very gallant ac- 
count of an entertainment intended as a particular 
compliment to his arrival. The dance, like most 
savage dances, was unquestionably a pantomime; 
and he probably did not understand what it was in- 
tended to represent. 

The Indian women sometimes accompany the men 
on hunting excursions, for the purpose of bringing 
home the game ; and in time of battle they often 
encourage and assist the warriors. In addition to 
the toilsome occupations already alluded to, they 
made garments of skins, sewed with sinews and 
thorns, wove neat mats and baskets, and embroidered 
very prettily with shells, feathers, and grass of vari- 
ous colors. When first visited by Europeans, they 
wore furs in winter, and mats tied about them in 
summer ; but they soon learned to substitute blan- 
kets, and strips of cloth. Those that can afford it, 
have ears, neck, arms, and waist plentifully decorated 
with beads, pebbles, fishes' teeth, or shells. The In- 
dians of California perforate the lobes of the ears, 
and insert pieces of wood five or six inches long, or- 
namented with feathers. On the North- West coast r 
the women make a horizontal incision in the lower 
lip, for the purpose of introducing a wooden plug, 
which makes the lip protrude in a hideous manner. 
In the neighborhood of Kotzebue's sound, they wear 
large beads suspended from the nose, and when they 



238 AMERICAN INDIANS, 

experience inconvenience from these ornaments, they 
stow them away in the nostrils. The Guiana fe- 
males stick thorns, or pins, through the lower lip ; 
the heads are inside, and the points rest upon the 
chin. They have likewise the habit of putting a 
band round the ankle and knee, when girls are ten or 
twelve years old ; as this is never removed, it pro- 
duces an unnatural compression, and the calf of the 
leg swells to an unwieldy size. Indians of both 
sexes paint themselves in various colors and pat- 
terns, and are more or less addicted to tattooing; 
though it is by no means practised to the extent that 
it is among the South sea islanders. 

Before America was visited by Europeans, the In- 
dian tribes were universally temperate, healthy, and 
cleanly in their habits ; but they have now acquired 
most of the evils of civilization, with few of its ad- 
vantages. They have a reddish brown complexion, 
keen black eyes, regular white teeth, and sleek, 
shining black hair, which the women usually suffer 
to flow over the shoulders. Those who live near the 
sea never become. bald, and their hair does not turn 
gray ; perhaps this may be owing to the frequent 
habit of bathing in salt water, which always has a 
salutary effect on the hair. 

The vigorous forms of .their children may be attri- 
buted to active habits, and to the entire freedom 
of their limbs from all bands, ligatures, or clothing. 
Several tribes have the habit of flattening the fore- 
head, by heavy pressure daring infancy. To be 
childless is considered almost as great a misfortune 



AMERICAN INDIANS. 239 

as it was among the Jews. A man will never divorce 
a wife who has brought him sons, and though he 
may perchance marry several others, he always con- 
siders her as entitled to peculiar respect. 

Indian women are usually well skilled in simple 
remedies, and are the physicians of their tribes. In 
some places, medicine is considered peculiarly effica- 
cious if it is prepared and administered by the hand 
of a maiden. The healing art is intimately connected 
in their minds with magic, and medicines are seldom 
given without prayers and incantations, to avert the 
influence of evil spirits. There are in almost every 
tribe individuals who claim the gift of prophecy, and 
endeavor to foretel future events by conjurations and 
dreams. I am not aware that they consider women 
more frequently endowed with this supernatural* 
power than men. 

Some tribes bury their dead, others expose them 
on scaffolds suspended in high trees. The arms and 
horse of a warrior are buried with him for his use in 
another world ; and a mortar, kettle, and other uten- 
sils of daily use accompany the corpse of a female. 
When a great chief dies, his wives, and many of his 
attendants, are sometimes obliged to follow him to 
the world of spirits. The tribe of Natchez is ruled 
by a chief called The Great Sun ; and when any 
woman of the blood of the Suns dies, it becomes 
necessary that her husband and attendants should be 
sacrificed in honor of her decease. The widows of 
illustrious chiefs generally take pride in devoting 
themselves to death with stoical firmness. The wife 



240 AMERICAN INDIANS. 

of The Stung Serpent, who was brother to The Great 
Sun, thus addressed her children when she was about 
to leave them: "Your father waits for me in the 
land of spirits. If I were to yield to your tears, I 
should injure my love, and fail in my duty. You 
that are descended of his blood, and fed by my milk, 
ought not to weep. Rather rejoice that you are 
Suns and warriors, bound to give examples of firm- 
ness to the whole nation." The victims, having 
been made giddy by swallowing -little balls of tobac- 
co, are strangled, and placed near the corpse upon 
mats, ranged according to their rank. 

The Indians, both men and women, lament for the 
dead with loud howling and lamentation, blacken 
their faces, and wound themselves with flints, knives, 
and splinters of wood. When the women are going 
out to work, or returning from their labors, the wi- 
dows of the tribe often join in a sort of dirge, or 
mourning chorus. 

As sailors have the superstition that it brings bad 
luck to have a woman on board a ship, so the Indians 
believe that the fleetest horse in the world would lose 
his speed, if a woman were suffered to mount him ; 
hence when it becomes necessary for women to ride, 
they are placed on old worn-out animals. 

Among the Dacotahs a particular lodge is set apart 
for councils, and the reception of strangers. The 
women supply it with wood and water, but are never 
permitted to enter it. This tribe have an institution 
called the Lodge of the Grand Medicine, the ceremo- 
nies of which are celebrated in secret, and the mem- 



AMERICAN INDIANS. 241 

bers know each other by certain signs. It differs 
from Free-Masonry, in allowing women to be among 
the initiated. 

The women of the Hurons and Iroquois seem to 
have had more influence than was common among 
other tribes. Huron women might appoint a mem- 
ber of the council, and one of their own sex if they 
chose. They could prevail upon the warriors to go 
to battle, or desist from it, according to their wishes. 
Among the Natchez, authority descended in an here- 
ditary line both to male and female. It is a general 
rule with the American tribes that a man should be 
succeeded by his sister's children, not by his own. 

The dwellings of the Indians are huts made of the 
interwoven boughs of trees, or tents covered with the 
skins of animals, without division of apartments. 
Whole villages of women and children are often left 
for weeks, while the men are absent on hunting ex- 
peditions. 

The South American tribes were more docile, in- 
dolent, and soft-hearted than those of the north. 
They married at an earlier period ; twelve or thirteen 
being the common age for a bride. It is said that 
the tribes about the isthmus of Darien considered it 
no impropriety for women to make the first declara- 
tion of love. When they preferred a young man, 
they told him so, and promised to be very faithful, 
good-tempered, and obedient, if he would take them 
to wife. 

The women of Greenland and other countries 
about the arctic regions are inured to the utmost 



242 WOMEN OF THE ARCTIC REGIONS. 

rigor of a northern climate, and the extremity of toil 
During the long winters, many of these tribes live in 
snow huts with ice windows. They consider train- 
oil one of the greatest of luxuries, and would eagerly 
devour a tallow candle in preference to the most deli- 
cious sweetmeats. They dress in garments of rein- 
deer's skin, lined with moss, and changed so seldom, 
that they become filthy in the extreme. The men 
hunt bears and catch seals ; but when they have 
towed their booty to land, they would consider it a 
disgrace to help the women drag it home, or skin 
and dress it. They often stand and look idly on, 
while their wives are staggering beneath a load that 
almost bends them to the earth. The women are 
cooks, butchers, masons, curriers, shoemakers, and 
tailors. They will manage a boat in the roughest 
seas, and will often push off from the shore in the 
midst of a storm, that would make the hardiest Eu- 
ropean sailor tremble. 

In most countries, women enter into matrimony 
more readily than men, even where their affections 
are not concerned. The reasons are obvious. Wo- 
men are more restrained by the laws and usages of 
society than men, and the scope of their ambition 
is much more limited. Though marriage subjects 
them to many cares and privations, it gives them in 
some respects a greater degree of freedom and consi- 
deration ; it likewise generally insures protection and 
support, and is almost the only way in which a wo- 
man can rise above her natural condition, with regard 
to wealth and rank. 



WOMEN OF THE ARCTIC REGIONS, 243 

In Greenland, all this is reversed. Young girls 
have nothing to do but dance and sing, and fetch 
water, and look to their baby brothers and sisters ; 
but when they marry, they become the slaves of an 
absolute master, for whom they are obliged to toil 
and drudge, with frequent beatings ; and if left in 
widowhood with little children, they are generally 
in extreme poverty, with none to hunt or fish for 
them. For these reasons, the Greenland women 
are averse to marriage. When a girl sees the rela- 
tions of a young man at her father's house, and 
hears them praise his dexterity in catching seals, she 
begins to suspect that her parents are about to sell 
her ; and she often runs away and hides in the moun- 
tains, until the women search for her, and drag her 
home. On such occasions, she will remain silent 
and dejected for several days, refusing to be comfort- 
ed. Sometimes they make a solemn vow that they 
will never marry, and shave their heads in sign of 
their determination. Their hair is long, straight and 
black. The women wear it in a roll on the top of the 
head, adorned with some gay bandage of beads, or 
hanging in two long braids each side of the forehead. 
It is never cut off, except to avoid marriage, or in token 
of deep mourning, or as a punishment. Mothers tat- 
too the faces of their daughters, by drawing threads 
filled with soot under the skin. They are generally 
short in stature, with shoulders made very broad by 
the constant habit of carrying burdens. Their com- 
plexion is tawny, and their eyes small and sunken. 
Some of the old women are said to be hideously 



244 WOMEN OF THE ARCTIC REGIONS. 

ugly ; their eyes being inflamed by the glittering of 
the sun on fields of ice, and their teeth blackened by 
the constant use of tobacco. Some of the inhabitants 
of these northern regions have their garments made 
wide enough in the back to support an infant, which 
is kept from falling by means of a girdle round the 
mother's waist ; in other places, the babe sits behind 
her neck, on a broad strap fastened round her fore- 
head. Some of the children, it is said, are rather 
comely by nature, but, from being laid carelessly in 
the bottom of boats, they look very much like wild, 
neglected little animals. 

Polygamy is not common, but is by no means 
discreditable. The first wife, if she have children, is 
considered the head of the family. When she dies, 
the junior wife takes her place, and is generally very 
kind to the motherless little ones. When a man 
wishes to obtain a wife, he adorns himself, his chil- 
dren, his house, his boats, and his darts, in the finest 
manner he can, in order to render himself an object 
of attraction. Widowers seldom marry under a year, 
unless they have very small children, with no one to 
nurse them. When a man wishes for divorce, he 
leaves the house, apparently in anger, and does not 
return for several days ; the wife understands his 
meaning, packs up her clothes, and removes to her 
friends. 

In these northern regions the dances are panto- 
mimes, consisting of violent writhings, stampings, 
and contortions. They are particularly fond of imi- 
tating the animals they are accustomed to pursue. 



WOMEN OF THE ARCTIC REGIONS. 245 

The bear has been called their dancing-master, for 
they imitate, with wonderful accuracy, his motions 
and attitudes, in all possible situations. Their skil- 
ful female dancers are so rapid and violent in their 
movements, that they appear to a civilized eye more 
like furies or maniacs than any thing else. 

The Greenlanders and Esquimaux are generally 
good-humored and friendly, and, like all savages, ex- 
tremely hospitable. Men, women, and children, who 
are obliged to live huddled together in small apart- 
ments, cannot be expected to have any considerable 
degree of refinement, or even decency, in their habits ; 
but their perilous mode of life tends to develope a 
kind of instinctive intelligence. Captain Lyon men- 
tions one female, in particular, named Iligliuk, whom 
her countrymen called " the wise woman." She was 
frequently on board his ship, and gave some valuable 
geographical knowledge of the country, in the form 
of a rude map ; but she soon became very proud and 
disdainful, in consequence of the attentions that were 
paid her. 

The tribes of these frozen regions have generally 
great faith in magic, and place much reliance on in- 
formation obtained from male and female sorcerers, 
who go about dressed in a fantastic manner, and as- 
suming a frenzied deportment, as if under the influ- 
ence of evil inspiration. 

Intoxication is a common vice with both sexes; 
and both have an excessive love of chewing and 
smoking tobacco. 

In the Russian settlements, there is a tribe which 



246 SOUTH AMERICAN WOMEN. 

have a strange manner of courtship. When a young- 
man has chosen a girl, he goes to her relations, and 
offers " to drudge for them," till he can secure the 
object of his affections. The young woman is imme- 
diately wrapped up in a multiplicity of garments, that 
scarcely leave her face visible ; and the lover has no 
hope of obtaining his prize, until in some lucky mo- 
ment he catches her off her guard, and is able to 
touch her uncovered hand, arm, neck, or face. It is 
necessary that she should confess the fact, and affirm 
that she was taken by surprise. It is difficult to 
perform this task ; for her female relations keep near 
her night and day, and if the young man attempts to 
tear off the teasing envelopes, he gets a sound beat- 
ing, and is liable to be dismissed in disgrace. Some- 
times two or three years expire before he attains his 
object ; and in the mean time, he is bound to perform, 
with the utmost industry and submission, any labors 
her relations choose to impose upon him. Soon af- 
ter the long-desired triumph is obtained, the damsel 
consents to be his wife, and her friends, without any 
further ceremony, commemorate the event by a feast. 
The European settlers of South America are prin- 
cipally Spanish and Portuguese. They retain the 
language, manners, and customs of their ancestors ; 
but if the report of numerous travellers be correct, 
the state of morals is worse than in the old countries. 
We find the same ceremonious observance of etiquette 
— the same exaggerated phrases to express courtesy, 
friendship, or love — the same chivalrous bearing to- 
ward ladies — the same pageantry in religious festi- 



S0T7TH AMERICAN WOMEN. 247 

vals— and the same universal practice of taking the 
siesta, or afternoon's sleep, which prevail in Spain 
and Portugal. 

An enervating climate, an accommodating religion, 
and the degrading system of slavery, have all com- 
bined to produce an unfavorable influence on the mo- 
ral and intellectual character of the people. Slavery 
is indeed nearly abolished, except in Brazil ; but a 
long time will probably elapse before its baneful 
effects cease to be visible on the manners and ha- 
bits of those, who have been accustomed to breathe 
.-as polluting atmosphere. The South American wo- 
men are generally ignorant and indolent, and more 
governed by passion than by principle. Public opi- 
nion is by no means rigid concerning the conduct of 
married women ; but individual revenge is not unfre- 
quently taken, in the form of duels and assassina- 
tions. Captain Cochrane, speaking of Colombia, 
says : " The majority of the women are by no means 
handsome. They certainly have fine eyes and dark 
hair ; but neither features, complexion, nor figure are 
good, compared with those of Europeans. Some few 
have, when young, a little bloom on their cheeks ; 
but in general a sallow or Moorish cast of face meets 
the eye. The men are far handsomer than the wo- 
men, and their dark complexions are more agreeable 
to the eye. They are also better educated, being 
generally able to read and tvrite." 

M. Depons describes the women of Caracas as 
" generally below the middle size ; mild, tender, and 
seductive; with jet-black hair, alabaster skins, eyes 



248 SOUTH AMERICAN W0M£tff o 

large and finely shaped, and carnation lips. Their 
attire is rather elegant. They feel a kind of vanity 
on being taken for French ; but whatever resem- 
blance there may be in the dress, there is too little 
gracefulness to permit the illusion to subsist. Their 
principal morning occupation is going to mass, and a 
great portion of the rest of the day is spent lounging 
on sofas, or gazing at the windows. Their education 
is limited to learning a number of prayers, reading 
badly, spelling worse, and playing by rote a few 
tunes on the guitar and piano-forte. But in spite of 
their defective education, the women of Caracas 
know how to unite social manners with decent beha- 
vior, and the art of coquetry with the modesty of 
their sex." 

The festivals of the Roman Catholic religion are 
sufficiently numerous to employ a large portion of 
the time of its votaries ; and they are observed with 
as much pomp in the New World, as in the Catholic 
countries of Europe. Corpus Christi day is celebrat- 
ed with unusual magnificence. It is announced the 
preceding evening by artificial fireworks. The win- 
dows of the houses are adorned with gay festoons of 
silk and ribbons ; jewellers sometimes display their 
whole stock of sparkling gems, exposed in glass cases 
on the outer walls of the building ; at the corners of 
the streets, through which the procession is to pass, 
are altars richly ornamented with jewels and flowers ; 
and puppet-shows, with curious animals of various 
sorts in cages, are ranged on all sides. As soon as 
the sound of the bell is heard announcing the ap- 



S0T7TH AMERICAN WOMEN. 249 

proach of the procession, all leave their games, and 
kneel in the street. " At the head of the procession, 
are chariots dragged along by men ; in one is king 
David, with the head of Goliath in his hand ; in 
another, Esther; in a third, Mordecai; Joseph next 
makes his appearance upon a horse richly capari- 
soned, and followed by a great number of guards; 
these, however, are only mounted on pasteboard 
chargers. All these personages are the children of 
the principal inhabitants of the city. To obtain the 
honor of acting a part in this imposing spectacle, is 
a great desideratum ; and those who are honored, by 
having their children nominated, neglect no kind of 
expense : rivalling each other in splendor, they lay 
pearls, diamonds, emeralds, and rubies under contribu* 
tion, and put their imagination to the rack, in order 
to render the dresses of the actors more magnificent. 
The most beautiful girls in the city walk between 
two rows of priests, some carrying the ark, and the 
show-bread, others incense or baskets of flowers. To 
these succeed young Indians, who, to the sound of a 
flute and tabor, perform wild fantastic dances. The 
procession is closed by a detachment of troops, with 
arms and colors reversed." These religious solemni- 
ties generally conclude with fireworks, concerts, 
balls, and masquerades. 

Doctor Walsh thus describes the great convent of 
Ajuda, in Rio Janeiro : " At the end of the chapel is 
a large quadrangle, entered by a massive gateway, 
surrounded by three stones of grated windows. Here 
female negro pedlers come with their goods, and ex- 



250 SOUTH AMERICAN WOMEN. 

pose them in the court-yard below. The nuns, from 
their grated windows above, see what they like, and, 
letting down a cord, the article is fastened to it ; it is 
then drawn up and examined, and, if approved of, the 
price is let down. Some that I saw in the act of 
buying and selling in this way, were very merry, 
joking and laughing with the blacks below, and did 
not seem at all indisposed to do the same with my 
companion. In three of the lower windows, on a 
level with the court-yard, are revolving cupboards, 
like half-barrels, and at the back of each is a plate of 
tin, perforated like the top of a nutmeg-grater. The 
nuns of this convent are celebrated for making sweet 
confectionary, which people purchase. There is a 
bell which the purchaser applies to, and a nun peeps 
through the perforated tin ; she then lays the dish 
on a shelf of the revolving cupboard, and turns it in- 
side out ; the dish is taken, the price laid in its place, 
and it is turned in. While we stood there, the invi- 
sible lady-warder asked for a pinch of snuff; the box 
was laid down in the same way, and turned in and 
out." 

The disposition to take the veil, even among young 
girls, is not uncommon in Brazil. The opposition of 
friends can prevent it, until they are twenty-five years 
old ; but after that time they are considered compe- 
tent to decide for themselves. The same writer de- 
scribes the initiation of a young lady, whose wealthy 
parents were extremely reluctant to have her take 
the vow. She held a lighted torch in her hand, in 
imitation of the prudent virgins ; and when the priest 



S-OUTH AMERICAN WOMEN. 251 

ehanted, " Your spouse approaches ; come forth and 
meet him," she approached the altar, singing, " I fol- 
low with my whole heart;" and, accompanied by 
two nuns already professed, she knelt before the bi- 
shop. " She seemed very lovely, with an unusually 
sweet, gentle, and pensive countenance. She did not 
look particularly or deeply affected; but when she 
sung her responses, there was something exceedingly 
mournful in the soft, tremulous, and timid tones? of 
her voice. The bishop now exhorted her to make a 
public profession of her vows before the congregation, 
and said, l Will you persevere in your purpose of holy 
chastity V She blushed deeply, and, with a downcast 
look, lowly, but firmly answered, * I will.' He again 
said, more distinctly, ' Do you promise to preserve 
it V and she replied more emphatically, c I do pro- 
mise.' The bishop said, 'Thanks be to God;' and 
she bent forward and reverently kissed his hand, 
while he asked her, ' Will you now be blessed and 
consecrated ?' She replied, ' Oh ! I wish it.' 

" The habiliments, in which she was hereafter to be 
clothed, were sanctified by the aspersion of holy wa- 
ter : then followed several prayers to God, that ' As 
he had blessed the garments of Aaron, with ointment 
which flowed from his head to his beard, so he would 
now bless the garment of his servant, with the copi- 
ous dew of his benediction.' When the garment was 
thus blessed, the girl retired with it ; and having laid 
aside the dress in which she had appeared, she re- 
turned, arrayed in her new attire, except her veil. A 
gold ring was next provided, and consecrated with a 



252 SOUTH AMERICAN WOMEN. 

prayer, that she who wore it ' might be fortified with 
celestial virtue, to preserve a pure faith, and incor- 
rupt fidelity to her spouse, Jesus Christ.' He last 
took the veil, and her female attendants having unco- 
vered her head, he threw it over her, so that it fell 
on her shoulders and bosom, and said, ' Receive this 
sacred veil, under the shadow of which you may 
learn to despise the world, and submit yourself truly > 
aiM with all humility of heart, to your Spouse;' to 
which she sung a response, in a very sweet, soft, and 
touching voice : * He has placed this veil before my 
face, that I should see no lover but himself.' 

11 The bishop now kindly took her hand, and held 
it while the following hymn was chanted by the 
choir with great harmony : * Beloved Spouse, come — - 
the winter is passed — the turtle sings, and the bloom- 
ing vines are redolent of summer.' 

" A crown, a necklace, and other female orna- 
ments, were now taken by the bishop and separately 
blessed ; and the girl bending forward, he placed them 
on her head and neck, praying that she might be 
thought worthy ' to be enrolled into the society of 
the hundred and forty-four thousand virgins, who 
preserved their chastity, and did not mix with the 
society of impure women.' 

" Last of all, he placed the ring on the middle finger 
of her right hand, and solemnly said, ' So I marry 
you to Jesus Christ, who will henceforth be your 
protector. Receive this ring, the pledge of your 
faith, that you may be called the spouse of God.' 
She fell on her knees, and sung, ' I am married to 



SOUTH AMERICAN WOMEN. 253 

him whom angels serve, whose beauty the sun and 
moon admire ;' then rising, and showing with exulta- 
tion her right hand, she said, emphatically, as if to 
impress it on the attention of the congregation, ' My 
Lord has wedded me with this ring, and decorated 
me with a crown as his spouse. I here renounce 
and despise all earthly ornaments for his sake, whom 
alone I see, whom alone I love, in whom alone I trust, 
and to whom alone I give all my affections. My 
heart hath uttered a good word : I speak of the deed 
I have done for my King.' * The bishop then pro- 
nounced a general benediction, and retired up to the 
altar; while the nun professed was borne off be- 
tween her friends, with lighted tapers, and garlands 
waving." 

Doctor Walsh observes, that the spectators did not 
seem to be at all impressed with the solemnity of this 
ceremony, but laughed and joked about it with a de- 
gree of levity not entirely consistent with delicacy. 
It is a notorious fact that the South Americans have 
little hearty faith in the religion they profess. The 
French philosophy taught in their schools has de- 
stroyed this, without introducing any thing better. 
Women are very regular in their attendance at mass ; 
but men give themselves little trouble about it, un- 
less some love-affair attracts them to the church. 
Girls often marry as young as twelve or fourteen. 
Ambitious parents there, as elsewhere, are desirous 
to have their children form matches of interest; but 
the natural ardor and sensibility of the people is op- 
posed to this. With all the fervid romance of olden 

.VOL. IT. 17 



254 SOUTH AMERICAN WOMEN. 

time, they fall in love at the first glance ; and while 
the paroxysm endures, " the world is divided into 
two parts — that where the beloved object is, and that 
where she is not." It is no uncommon occurrence 
for the daughters of wealthy families to leave the 
luxuries of their father's house, for the sake of some 
young man, whose industry will afford them merely 
a comfortable subsistence. The enthusiastic charac- 
ter of the people sympathizes so readily with such 
disinterestedness, that a law was recently passed in 
Brazil to prevent rich fathers from disinheriting their 
children under such circumstances, unless some im- 
portant charge could be substantiated against the 
moral character of those they married. It is much 
to be regretted that the matrimonial vow is often as 
lightly broken, as it was fervently uttered. 

In large cities, French dress and manners prevail 
to a considerable extent ; but in the provinces women 
frequently follow the Spanish custom of wearing the 
mantilla, and covering the face, so as to leave only 
one sparkling eye visible. They likewise ride on 
horses, or mules, after the fashion of men. The la- 
boring class are principally blacks, or some of the 
various shades between black and white ; and here 
as in other countries, the free negro is almost as 
much paralyzed and degraded as the slave himself 
by the effects of that lazy and pernicious system. 
The prejudice with regard to color is much less strong 
than in North America. The descendants of Afri- 
cans have a wider field opened for the exercise of such 
abilities as God may have given them ; and both 



WOMEN OF UNITED STATES. 255 

sexes sometimes form highly respectable marriages 
with the European race. 

Because the prevailing character of South Ameri- 
can women is ignorant and voluptuous, it must not 
be supposed that there are not numerous exceptions. 
Even the cities, which are always worse than vil- 
lages, contain many virtuous, modest, and honorable 
families ; and during the frequent struggles for inde- 
pendence, ladies in various parts of South America 
have often manifested a sublime degree of firmness 
and patriotism. 

It is hardly possible to imagine a greater contrast 
of character than existed between the settlers of 
North and South America. Instead of wealth-seek- 
ing, voluptuous adventurers, with a religion so flexi- 
ble, that it adapted itself to every form of human 
passion, New England was settled by stern, un- 
compromising Puritans — men who considered mirth 
an indecorum, the love of women a snare, and 
dress a shameful memento of the fall of Adam. 
Though resisting tyranny, they themselves were 
most tyrannical. The selectmen deemed they had a 
right to ascertain whether every girl in their village 
did a proper amount of spinning and weaving ; and 
if a mother staid away from meeting, to tend her 
babe, the deacon straightway called to reprove her 
for neglect of the ordinances. It was then customary 
for women to carry their infants to religious meet- 
ings, and attend to all their wants with as much free- 
dom, as if they had been by their ow T n firesides. 



256 WOMEN OF UNITED STATES. 

With regard to external comforts, there was a near 
approach to equality in the condition of all classes. 
The employed ate and drank and labored with their 
employers. Each household was a patriarchal esta- 
blishment, of which the hired domestics were a com- 
ponent part ; and they generally remained in the 
family they once entered, until they were married 
or died. It was an almost unheard-of thing for a 
family to keep more than one female domestic, and 
her wages, even forty years ago, was not more than 
two pistareens, or 2s. 6d. Though cloth was then 
three times as dear as it now is, this price was suffi- 
cient to satisfy all wants ; for a new calico gown 
once a year was then considered quite a luxury. 
The most respectable inhabitants of the colonies were 
quite content to ride to church on horseback, with a 
w T ife or daughter behind them, on a pillion. One 
gown of silk brocade was considered wealth, and 
two constituted magnificence ; especially if a string 
of gold beads, and gold buckles for the shoes, were 
appended thereto. But though the richest wardrobe 
of those primitive days would appear scanty enough in 
modern eyes, men did not fail to discuss the worn-out 
theme of female extravagance. The Simple Cobbler 
of Aggawam, who wrote in Massachusetts as early 
as 1647, says: "I can make my selfe sick at any 
time with comparing the dazzeling splender wher- 
with our gentlewomen were embellished in some for- 
mer habits, with the goosdom, wherewith they are 
now surcingled and debauched. We have about five 
or six of them in our colony : if I see any of them 



WOMEN OF UNITED STATES. 257 

accidentally, I cannot cleanse my phansie of them 
for a moneth after. I speak sadly; me thinkes it 
should break the hearts of English-men to see goodly 
English-women imprisoned in French cages, peering 
out of their hood-holes for some men of mercy to 
help them with a little wit, and no body relieves 
them. It is no marvell they weare drailes, on the 
hinder part of their heads, having nothing as it seems 
in the fore-part, but a few Squirrills braines, to help 
them frisk from one ill-fauored fashion to another. 
It is no little labour to be continually putting up 
English women into Out-landish caskes; who if 
they be not shifted anew, once in a few moneths, 
grow too sowre for their husbands. When I heare a 
nugiperous Gentledame inquire what is the newest 
fashion of the Court, with egge to be in it in all 
hast, whatever it be, I look at her as the very gizzard 
of a trifle, the product of a quarter of a cypher, the 
epitome of nothing, fitter to be kickt, if she were of 
a kickable substance, than either honoured or hu-> 
moured." 

About the time of the revolution, the fashion of 
wearing hooped petticoats was imported from beyond 
seas, and gave rise to considerable satire. A sailor 
in New York, finding a narrow street entirely filled 
by two persons in this inconvenient dress, amused the 
spectators by jumping over, through a space left be- 
tween the ladies by the immense circumference of 
their hoops. 

While we remained English colonies, a system of 
strict subordination was observed throughout society* 



258 WOMEN OP UNITED STATES. 

Men took off their hats, and women made a profound 
courtesy to the magistrates, or the minister ; children 
seldom presumed to speak in the presence of their 
parents, and were always taught to " make their 
manners, " when they met any person. 

It was in these days of simplicity, that the marquis 
La Fayette went to take leave of the mother of 
Washington, and found her weeding her garden. 
The dignified matron received him cordially, without 
embarrassment or apology ; and when he congratu- 
lated her on the greatness and glory of her son, she 
quietly replied : " I am not surprised at what George 
has done ; for he was always a good boy." 

The women of '76 shared in the patriotism and 
bravery of the men. They were ready to sacrifice 
themselves, or their children, for the good of the coun- 
try. Several individuals carried their enthusiasm so 
far as to enter the army, where they courageously 
faced all the perils and fatigues of the camp, until 
the close of the war. 

The strange delusion concerning witchcraft, which 
prevailed in Europe, extended itself to the English 
colonies toward the close of the seventeenth century. 
Every old woman who had an ill temper, a sinister 
expression of countenance, or an uncommon degree of 
shrewdness, was in great danger of being burned for a 
witch. Indeed such was the infatuation, that a little 
girl about four or five years old was committed to pri- 
son, charged with biting some bewitched persons, who 
showed the print of small teeth on their arms. An- 
other poor child was brought before the magistrates 



women of united states * QS9 

&nd asked, " How long hast thou been a witch V 
" Ever since I was six years old." " How old are 
you now ?" " Brother Richard says I shall be eight 
years old next November." " You said you saw a 
black cat once ; what did it say to you ?" " It said 
it would tear me to pieces if I did not sign my name 
to a book." "How did you afflict folks?" "I 
pinched them. My mother carried me to afflict 
them." " How could your mother carry you, when 
she was in prison ?" " She came like a black cat." 
" How did you know it was your mother ?" "The 
cat told me she was my mother." 

It seems unaccountable that such testimony as this 
was gravely listened to, and believed by the magis- 
trates ; and that too in cases where human life was at 
stake ; but the very nature of the supposed crime did 
not admit of any other than absurd evidence. The 
delusion prevailed to such a dreadful degree, that 
every woman feared her neighbor, and when she lay 
down to sleep, knew not but the next night would 
find her in prison. Children accused their own parents 
of carrying them to witches' meetings at midnight, 
and baptizing them in the name of the devil. Some- 
times the accused denied the charge, and when asked 
what God witches prayed to, answered, " I cannot 
tell; the Lord help me :" but in numerous instances 
they confessed themselves guilty of all the absurd 
charges brought against them, and accused others as 
their accomplices. Some of the accusers lived and 
died without ever acknowledging that they had stated 
any thing untrue, although they were reputed reli- 



260 WOMEN OF UNITED STATES* 

gious women ; but several of those, who confessed 
guilt, afterward acknowledged that they did it be- 
cause they had been told it was the only way to 
save their lives. Men were sometimes tried as wi- 
zards ; but this was comparatively rare. Some rem- 
nants of this superstition lingered long after the uni- 
versal epidemic subsided. Within the last twenty 
years, an old woman in the vicinity of Boston, called 
Moll Pitcher, pretended to tell fortunes, and her 
claims to supernatural assistance were believed by 
many, especially by sailors. 

The state of society in the United States bears a 
general resemblance to the English, though conside- 
rably modified by the peculiar circumstances of the 
country. In Europe, the female peasantry are uni- 
versally more virtuous than those who (for want of a 
better term) are called the higher classes ; even the 
contadine*- of voluptuous Italy are said to be gene- 
rally modest in their character and deportment. In 
America there is no class corresponding to the pea- 
santry ; but nearly all the people are obliged to sup- 
port themselves by their own industry. The result 
is favorable to female virtue. Intrigues with married 
women, so common in a more luxurious state of soci- 
ety, are almost unheard of in the United States. 
Should a Frenchman, or an Italian, address himself 
to an American woman in terms with which his own 
countrymen are quite familiar, he would generally 
find it very difficult to make himself understood. I 
by no means intend to say that profligacy does not 

* Peasant girls. 



WOMEN Of UNITED STATES. 261 

exist, even in the most puritanical portions of our 
country— far, very far from it* The vicious class of 
females in our cities perhaps bears as large a propor- 
tion to the population, as in European towns ; and 
among the respectable and genteel classes of society, 
there are individuals whose conduct is culpable ; but 
these are exceptions to the general rule. The laws 
of modesty are never transgressed in dress, except by 
a few ultra-fashionables, and the opinion even of their 
own class is decidedly opposed to it. But a change 
is visibly coming over the face of society. Wealth is 
introducing luxury into our cities, and foreign refine- 
ments are coming with foreign vices in their train. 
The descendants of the Puritans allow their daugh- 
ters to waltz, and think it no scandal to witness the 
exhibition of opera-dancers. The substantial body 
of the people have still a religious cast of character ; 
but infidelity has taken strong hold in cities* The 
connection between religion and marriage is not ob- 
vious, but it is real. All infidels, whether they be 
found in France, England, or America, have a decided 
tendency to regard the institution of marriage as ty- 
rannical. The lines of demarkation between different 
classes are becoming more distinct, and active indus- 
try is considered a bar to gentility. These causes 
may work slowly, or rapidly ; but if their ultimate 
effects prove favorable to virtue, the history of Ame- 
rica will differ from that of all other nations. 

One of the most observable traits in the character 
of Americans, is the great value they place upon edu- 
cation. A mother will submit to any privation for the 



1862 WOMEN OF UNITED STATES* 

sake of placing her children at good schools. There 
are not many instances of the thorough and elegant 
female education, which the higher classes of French 
and English receive ; but women are generally intel- 
ligent and well informed ; a good knowledge of his- 
tory, the popular sciences, Latin, French, and Italian, 
are common acquisitions; and among the descendants 
of the English settlers, it is almost an unheard-of 
thing, for either man or woman, not to know how to 
read and write. The Dutch settlers, with their wives 
and daughters, are generally ignorant of those first ru- 
diments of learning ; and the descendants of Africans, 
of all complexions, from black to the slightest possi- 
ble tinge of olive, are almost universally so. In the 
slave-holding states, which constitute half the Union, 
it is contrary to law to teach them the alphabet ; and 
in the free states the prejudice against their color is 
so strong, that they have found many discouragements 
and obstacles in the path of learning. The same 
prejudice excludes them from all trades and occupa- 
tions, except those which are considered the lowest. 
A young mulatto girl, of very respectable character, 
belonging to Boston, lately attempted to learn the 
art of mantua-making ; she was charged ten dollars, 
five of which were paid in advance. In a few days 
the mantua-maker informed her that she must not 
come any more, because her other apprentices would 
not consent to work in the same room with a colored 
person. Another girl, who became an apprentice to 
a milliner, was discharged, because the woman with 
whom the milliner boarded threatened to turn her 



WOMEN OF UNITED STATES. 263 

out of the house, if she thus equalized herself with a 
mulatto. It is almost an invariable rule to exclude 
colored people from stages, and from all the comforts 
and conveniences of vessels and steam-boats ; respec- 
tability of character and appearance, and ability to 
pay for such privileges, make no difference in their 
treatment. A worthy woman, who attempts to visit 
a dying child at a distance from her home, is gene- 
rally liable to insulting conduct and contemptuous 
expressions, if her complexion has the least tinge of 
African ancestors. 

In New Orleans there are a large class of the 
mixed races, called Quaderoons. They are frequently 
the daughters of wealthy and accomplished men, who 
do not spare expense in their education. As a class, 
they are proverbial for beauty and gracefulness, and 
are regarded with most peculiar and inveterate dis- 
like by the white ladies. In every slave state, it is 
supposed to be necessary, for the safety of the plan- 
ters, to have very severe laws with regard to free peo- 
ple of color ; and these laws fall oppressively upon the 
Quaderoons. Some of them have inherited handsome 
fortunes ; but they are not allowed to ride in a car- 
riage, they must not sit in the presence of white 
ladies, or enter their apartments without special per- 
mission ; they can moreover be whipped, like slaves, 
upon any accusation proved by two witnesses. Many 
of them have lost even the olive tinge, and have a 
fair skin, sometimes with light hair and eyes ; but 
the law forbidding marriage between the colored 
and white race is applied to them. Their personal 



264 WOMEN OF UNITED STATES. 

endowments often render them objects of attraction 
to wealthy and distinguished men, and custom be- 
stows upon temporary connections a certain degree 
of respectability. The Quaderoons are said to be 
generally modest and decorous in their manners, but 
usually have that flexibility of principle, which might 
be expected from people placed under such pernicious 
influences. Instances are, however, by no means rare 
of constant and virtuous attachments, which continue 
through life, though the laws prevent their being 
sanctioned by the form of marriage. In such cases, 
the children are frequently sent to France to be edu- 
cated, where they often form highly respectable mat- 
rimonial connections. 

The attention of many people in the United States 
has recently been called to the demoralizing influ- 
ences growing out of slavery, and the consequent 
prejudice against color. The reformation of the evil 
is in the hands of Him, who hath said, " As ye would 
that others should do unto you, do ye even so unto 
them." 

As a general rule, education among the wealthy 
classes is much more neglected in the slave states 
than in other portions of the Union. This is owing 
partly to the want of schools, and partly to the indo- 
lence induced by slavery. It is a common thing, 
even for the wives and daughters of distinguished 
men, to be as deficient in correct spelling, as they 
are in a knowledge of household duties. But many 
are sent to the free states for education; and not a 
few are admirable exceptions to the above remarks. 



WOMEN OF UNITED STATES. 265 

The southern ladies in general are delicately formed, 
with pale complexions, a languid gracefulness of 
manner, and a certain aristocratic bearing, acquired 
only by the early habit of commanding those who 
are deemed immeasurably inferior. 

The women of the United States have no direct / 
influence in politics ; and here, as in England, it is 
deemed rather unfeminine to take an earnest interest 
in public affairs. But perhaps there is no country, 
in the world, where women, as wives, sisters, and 
daughters, have more influence, or more freedom. 
Some travellers have compassionated the condition 
of American women, because they spend so small a 
portion of their time in amusements ; but this remark 
applies equally to men ; and it could not well be 
otherwise in a country where so much is to be done, 
and where estates are so equally divided that few 
become very wealthy. It is true that Americans do 
not treat their ladies with the graceful gallantry of 
Frenchmen, or the chivalric deference of Spaniards; 
but in place of these external refinements, women 
have their respect, esteem, and undoubting confidence. 

The class who are exempted from personal exer- 
tion, or at least from personal superintendence of 
their domestic avocations, is comparatively very 
small. Labor in the open fields and streets is rarely 
performed by women, unless it be by foreign pea- 
santry lately arrived in the country. The buxom 
daughters of the Dutch farmers do indeed continue 
the old custom of raking hay, and the girls in Wea- 
thersfield, Connecticut, may often be seen at early 



266 WOMEN OF UNITED STATES. 

dawn weeding the immense beds of onions, for which 
that town is celebrated. A large proportion of 
schools throughout the country are kept by women, 
and it is not uncommon for them to keep shops for 
the sale of English and French goods, toys, confec- 
tionary, &c. Mantua-making and millinary are, of 
course, their peculiar province ; and many are em- 
ployed to tend looms in factories, to set types in 
printing-offices, and fold sheets for the bookbinders. 
By far the largest proportion of these do not work 
for support, but to gain additional luxuries, which 
their parents cannot afford to furnish. Nothing sur- 
prises a foreigner more than the near approach to 
equality in the dress of different classes. The rich 
and fashionable are in most respects like those of 
Europe; and humble imitators have need of great 
diligence to copy their frequent changes. In the 
article of jewels, the most wealthy cannot indeed 
cope with their European models ; for the diamonds 
of a foreign duchess often surpass in value the whole 
fortune, real and personal, of a rich American. 

The habit of tight lacing, in order to form a slen- 
der waist, has been copied, like other European fa- 
shions. This practice, combined with the habit of' 
taking very little exercise in the open air, has an un- 
favorable effect upon freshness of complexion and 
beauty of figure. Excursions on horseback have 
lately become a very favorite amusement with Ame- 
rican ladies. 

In a country where the price of labor is so high, it 
is no uncommon thing to see domestics dressed as 



WOMEN OF UNITED STATES. 26T 

well as their employers. But though silk gowns 
and laces have taken the place of coarse calicoes, the 
situation of domestics is by no means improved. 
They are less contented in their situation, and less 
conscientious in the discharge of their duties, than 
they were in more patriarchal times. Many attri- 
bute this difficulty to our democratic institutions ; but 
I believe it originates in a want of republican princi- 
ple, not in the excess of it. If people would consider 
their domestics as sisters of the great human family, 
differing from them only in having, for the time be- 
ing, . a different use to perform in society — if they 
would have a tender regard to their health, a reason- 
able regard to their convenience, a friendly interest 
in their characters and plans — -in a word, if they 
would perpetually acknowledge a reciprocity of du- 
ties — we should soon cease to hear, complaints of the 
indifference and carelessness of domestics. While 
they are regarded as pieces of machinery, to whom 
nothing is due but the payment of wages, they can- 
not be expected to feel a deep interest for those who 
manifest so little interest in them. 

American ladies are accused of being more prudish 
than foreigners. I hope the charge will always re- 
main a true one ; but there may be an excess even 
of a good thing ; and when a sense of decorum 
led them to be squeamish about seeing Greenoucrh^ 
beautiful little cherubs, because the marble innocents 
had no drapery about them, I acknowledge it re- 
minded me of Sir Charles Grandison's remark . 
" Wottest thou not, my dear, how much mde\icac-y 
there is in thy 7 Vacv ?" 



268 WOMEN OF UNITED STATES. 

The tendency of modern times has continually been 
toward external refinement. The language used by 
queen Elizabeth and the queen of Navarre would not 
now be tolerated in any part of the civilized world; 
yet the marriage of a divorced wife aroused more 
virtuous indignation in the court of Elizabeth, than a 
dozen such incidents would now occasion, in any 
European court. Many phrases and subjects of con- 
versation which appear perfectly proper to an Eng- 
lish or French woman, are not so considered by an 
American. Some of our customs are, however, offen- 
sive to the modesty of foreigners ; such as the treat- 
ment, condition, and sometimes the dress of female 
slaves. The practice of being assisted by gentlemen, 
in rising from the rolling surf at Rockaway, after in- 
dulging in the refreshment of bathing, has likewise 
been regarded as singular. It is allowed on account 
of the overpowering might of the waters, and scru- 
pulous attention to propriety is observed in all the 
arrangements of the bath. 

The laws of England prevail in the United States, 
with slight modifications. Marriages are not generally 
performed in the church, because the dissenting sects 
are more numerous than Catholics or Episcopalians. 
The ceremony is legal when performed by a magis- 
trate, but a clergyman is universally preferred. Fa- 
thers give portions to daughters, according to their 
wealth, and it is a rare thing for a bride to be entire- 
ly destitute. It is customary for women to purchase 
their furniture, which is generally arranged in the 
house by some of the bride's female friends. Di- 



WOMEN OF UNITED STATES. 269 

vorces are very uncommon. Infants are never wrap- 
ped in the swaddling bands, ligatures, and biggins, 
still used in many European countries. Of late 
years, even that pretty ornament, the cap, is gene- 
rally dispensed with, in conformity with the advice 
of physicians, except at baptism and on other cere- 
monious occasions. As yet, it is an uncommon cir- 
cumstance, even among the rich, for a mother not to 
nurse her own children. 

Great freedom is allowed to young people ; parti- 
cularly during courtship. In old times, the North 
Holland custom prevailed in interior parts of the 
country, to considerable extent. It is a universal 
practice for lovers to remain with the objects of their 
choice several hours after other members of the family 
have retired to rest. Aristocratic people do indeed 
consider this custom ungenteel, and urge upon their 
daughters the scrupulous etiquette of more corrupt 
countries. " The spirit of the age" is unfavorable to 
the old-fashioned doctrine of " falling in love ;" even 
literature, which formerly represented this passion as 
the moving-spring of all human action, now generally 
ridicules its power. This influence has extended in a 
considerable degree to America ; and mothers are not 
wanting who will consent to sell their daughters to 
the highest bidder, though the bargain is accom- 
panied with formalities, supposed to render it much 
more respectable than the sale of Circassian girls in 
the Turkish markets. But while the country is so 
prosperous, and there are such facilities for gaining 
a living, matches of interest will continue to be ex- 

VOL. II. 18 



270 WOMEN OF UNITED STATES. 

ceptions to the general rule. Stolen marriages can 
be solemnized, without the consent of friends, at Pro- 
vidence, Rhode Island, as at Gretna Green, in Great 
Britain ; but there is seldom any serious opposition 
from parents to render such a step excusable. 

There are very few convents in the United States. 
The nearest approach to them among Protestants are 
the establishments of Shakers, where the brethren 
and sisters live in different dwellings, and enter the 
meeting-house by different doors. These people are 
proverbial for neatness and industry ; but their unna- 
tural mode of life induces something of automaton 
regularity, which is painful to a free spirit. 

The games and amusements of America are similar 
to those of Protestant Europe. Where all are pecu- 
liarly amenable to public opinion, eccentricities in 
character or dress are very rare, and some complain 
that this produces a monotonous surface of society. 
Lady Dare-all, the pride of fox-hunters and horse- 
racers, would require even more boldness to act in 
opposition to public opinion here, than was necessary 
for the same process in England. 

The custom of giving presents on the first of Janu- 
ary is generally observed ; and Catholics and Episco- 
palians commemorate Christmas with religious ser- 
vices and social festivity. In New England, the last 
Thursday of November is set apart as a day of 
thanksgiving, in conformity to the custom of their 
forefathers. All the members of a family, far and 
near, generally meet under the parental roof on this 
occasion. An abundant supply of roasted turkeys, 



WOMEN OF UNITED STATES* 



271 



puddings, and pies are provided, and the day is spent in 
festivity. The poor are bountifully supplied by their 
neighbors. In remote parts of the country, it is still 
considered a delightful frolic for farmers' families to 
meet together in the barn, to husk corn. If a girl finds 
a red ear of corn, she is entitled to receive a kiss ; and 
if a young man finds one, he gains a right to take the 
same privilege. The party partake of a plentiful sup- 
per, and there is no lack of merriment, or good cheer. 

Female societies for benevolent purposes are very 
numerous in the United States. A large portion of 
their funds are gained by the sale of ingenious arti- 
cles of their own manufacture. 

The United States have produced several female 
writers, some of whom have talents of the highest 
order. Foreign critics would probably unite with 
Americans in conferring the title of pre-eminence on 
Miss Sedgwick ; and never, in any age or country, 
have the laurels rested on a woman of purer princi- 
ples, or more expansive benevolence. 




■if 




Woman of Caroline Islands. 



SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 



Among these numerous islands there is a general 
resemblance of habits and manners. Their dwellings 
are small huts covered with matting, and their furni- 
ture consists of a few gourds, cocoa-nut shells, lances, 
slings, fishing-nets, and low wooden stools, of black 
or brown wood, neatly inlaid with ivory obtained 
from whale's teeth ; these latter articles serve both 
for seats and pillows. The floor is strewed with soft 
grass, covered with mats, on which all the inmates 
of the house sleep without distinction, 



WoMEft OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 2?§ 

The clothing of both sexes is a species of cloth 
made from the bark of the paper-mulberry tree, called 
tapa or gnatoo* The common class wear a strip of 
this cloth fastened about the hips and falling below 
the knees. The wealthy sometimes have their gar* 
ments trailing on the ground, because an ample 
drapery, particularly if it be very fine and delicate, ig 
considered an indication of high rank. The upper 
part of the person is usually entirely exposed ; but 
on some occasions a mantle of tapa is thrown over 
the shoulders. In some places mats are worn, one 
before and the other behind, fastened about the hip& 
with a cord of curious straw work. These mats are 
made of native flax, very fine and silky, and woven 
with great neatness and ingenuity. Sometimes the 
edges are ornamented with stripes of various colors? 
or with black diamonds, colored with the husk of 
cocoa-nuts. In several of the islands, one small 
square apron of this description constitutes all the 
clothing; and a broad leaf, or a wreath of leaves? 
often supplies the place even of this slight garmento 
The women of New Caledonia and New Hebrides 
wear a short, clumsy-looking petticoat made of the 
filaments of the plantain tree, about eight inches 
long, fastened to a very long cord which is passed 
several times around the waist, until the filaments lie 
one above another, several inches in thickness. The 
queens in the Sandwich islands sometimes wear 
cloaks, or mantles, made of feathers of various colors 7 
and arranged in all manner of beautiful patterns ; but 
this magnificent dress is worn only by people of the 
highest rank. 



274 WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS* 

In some of the islands, the women, when they go 
abroad, hold a green bough, or a banana leaf, over 
their heads, by way of parasol ; or sit down and 
weave little bonnets of matting or cocoa-leaves, when- 
ever they have need of them. The belles occasional- 
ly decorate themselves with fanciful turbans of fine 
white gnatooj among which their shining black ring- 
lets are very tastefully arranged. Sometimes they 
wear a curious kind of head-dress made of human 
hair, in braids nearly as fine as sewing silk ; these 
braids have been seen more than a mile long, without 
a knot. Superb coronets of plumes are worn on 
state occasions by people of distinction. 

European fashions were adopted with great eager- 
ness ; and their ignorance of the appropriate use of 
imported articles often led them into the most gro- 
tesque blunders. Mr. Stewart says he has seen a 
native woman of high rank, and monstrous size, go- 
ing to church in a fine white muslin dress, with a 
heavy silver-headed cane, an immense French cha- 
peau, thick woodman's shoes, and no stockings. But 
they soon learned better. In those islands that carry 
on a traffic with Europe and America, the royal fa- 
mily now have their walking dresses, dinner dresses, 
and evening dresses, of velvet, satin, or crape, in the 
most approved style ; and their wooden stools are 
changed for sofas and pillows covered with morocco 
or damask. 

In nearly all the South Sea islands, it is the custom 
to make an incision in the lobe of each ear, into which 
they introduce large rolls of leaves, sometimes covered 



WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 275 

with a very thin plate of tortoise shell, cylindrical 
pieces of ivory three inches long, or bits of wood, 
from which they suspend shells, or the teeth of fish- 
es. Sometimes these heavy ornaments distend the 
ears so much, that the lobes nearly touch the shoul- 
ders ; and sometimes they are torn asunder, and hang 
in two slips. These people are exceedingly fond of 
flowers, which they wear sometimes inserted in the 
upper edge of the ear, sometimes thrust through the 
cartilage of the nose, and sometimes woven in beau- 
tiful garlands, around the head or the neck. They 
place peculiar value on necklaces of whale's teeth, 
strung in such a manner that the largest come in 
front, while the others gradually decrease in size 
toward the back of the neck. When the string is 
drawn, the pointed extremities diverge, and form a 
handsome contrast with their dark brown skins. 
Both sexes are about equally fond of finery. The 
men of the South Sea islands consider profuse tat- 
tooing an indication of rank ; and some of them ap- 
pear to be covered with a permanent suit of embroi- 
dery from the crown of the head to the sole of the 
foot. The women are much less addicted to this 
practice. Some have their hands tattooed, like em- 
broidered gloves ; the feet and ankles of others are 
stained to resemble ornamented half-boots ; while 
others have merely a few dots on the tip of the 
tongue, or the palm of the hand. In the Feejee 
islands only the women are tattooed, while the men 
are not. 

The hair of the South Sea islanders is remarkably 



276 WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 

black, glossy, and beautiful. Some have attributed 
this to the circumstance of their being so much in 
the salt water ; and others have supposed it might 
be owing to the constant use of cocoa-nut oil. In 
some islands they rub the hair frequently with le- 
mon-juice, which is said to give it a peculiar lustre. 
In many places the natural beauty of their tresses is 
concealed by an artificial color, generally brown or 
purple, but in a few instances of a deep orange hue. 
In the Sandwich islands several women have been 
seen, with hair stained rose-color ; these women cut 
their hair short, comb it back in front, and plaster it 
with a kind of lime made of burnt shells, so that 
there is always a white circle round the forehead, 
contrasting strongly with their dark skins. In the 
Feejee islands they likewise powder the hair with 
ashes of the bread-fruit leaf, or stiffen it with pul- 
verized lime. But generally, throughout these isl- 
ands, they wear the hair long and smooth, tied up 
behind in a neat and tasteful manner, or suffered to 
float gracefully over the shoulders. No small degree 
of coquetry is shown in playing with it, and throw- 
ing it out upon the wind. 

Complexion varies in the different islands from 
deep copper-color to light olive. The natives of the 
Marquesas have light brown complexions, so clear 
that the mantling blush may be distinctly seen. 
They generally have fine teeth, expressive features, 
remarkably delicate hands and arms, and large spark- 
ling eyes, with long glossy eyelashes. These wo- 
men are considered pre-eminent among the South 



WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 277 

Sea islanders for beauty of face and figure. When 
they become tanned, they have a method of bleach- 
ing .the skin with the juices of certain plants. The 
first effect of this cosmetic is a very dark appearance ; 
but they remain in the house, covered up with mats, 
until it can be washed off, and then the skin becomes 
very fair. This is considered a necessary prepara- 
tion for great festivals, though it often costs the la- 
dies several days of seclusion. 

In Otaheite they have graceful forms, teeth white 
and regular, bright black eyes, pale brown complex- 
ions, and a skin remarkable for its softness ; but the 
custom of widening the face by continual pressure 
during infancy gives it a broad and masculine look. 

Notwithstanding the practice of frequent bathing, 
the inhabitants of nearly all the Polynesian islands 
are much afflicted with cutaneous disorders. 

These islanders are, in general, very particular 
about cleaning their mouths, and frequently rub 
their teeth with charcoal, or the husk of cocoa-nut. 
They bathe at sunrise and sunset ; and if removed 
from the vicinity of the sea, they have water poured 
over them plentifully from cocoa-nut shells. After 
this, they generally anoint themselves with cocoa-nut 
oil, perfumed with the aroma of flowers ; some color 
it with the juice of the tumeric, which makes it a 
pale yellow, or with the burnt root, which produces 
a deep orange. Wealthy people anoint themselves 
with oil of sandal-wood. White men, who salute 
the ladies of the South sea, are sometimes betrayed 
by a transfer of yellow and orange tints to their own 
faces. 



278 WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 

Throughout these islands, they salute each other 
by rubbing noses, or touching the nose to the fore- 
head, as if smelling. Our mode of expressing affec- 
tion seems to them very ridiculous, and they call 
it, in derision, "the white man's kiss." At Radack 
it is considered indecorous for any but husband and 
wife to salute each other after the fashion of their 
country, and even they never do it before strangers. 

Sensuality is the prevailing characteristic of the 
South Sea islanders. The licentiousness of their 
habits and manners, unchecked by nearness of rela- 
tionship, and unrestrained by any sense of decency, 
is too gross to be described. A child not unfrequent- 
ly finds its mother and aunt, or mother and grand- 
mother, in the same individual. The Sandwich 
islands and the Society islands have maintained a 
shameful pre-eminence in this respect ; and the evil 
has been much increased by the frequent visits of Eu- 
ropean and American vessels. Some of the islands 
furnish an agreeable exception to these remarks. The 
women of the Tonga islands are said to be very mo- 
dest and reserved. They take great care of their 
children ; and their girls are early taught many little 
ornamental accomplishments, such as plaiting flow- 
ers in various fanciful devices, as presents for their 
fathers, brothers, and superior chiefs. Voyagers 
have likewise described the women of Radack and 
New Caledonia as decent in their deportment and 
bashful about mixing with strangers. The natives 
of the Pelew islands are characterized by an uncom- 
mon degree of virtue and decorum, and their man- 



WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 279 

ners, though simple and untutored, are remarkably 
delicate and obliging. 

Gluttony is a prevailing fault in most of the islands 
of the Pacific. The wealthy class, who can freely 
indulge their appetites, attain to a size quite as un- 
wieldy as the Moorish women. It is mentioned of 
one of the queens of the Sandwich islands, that she 
was in the habit of eating so inordinately, that she 
remained sluggish for the remainder of the day, and 
it became necessary for attendants to rub her conti- 
nually. Mr. Stewart speaks of seeing one of the 
king's wives greedily devouring a large living fish, 
while the blood spirted over her face, and the pool 
animal wreathed its fins about her head in expiring 
agony. 

Cannibalism prevails in nearly all the islands. 
The flesh of women and children is preferred to that 
of men ; and captives taken in war are often devoted 
to this dreadful purpose. In some of the islands this 
practice is abolished. 

Infanticide is of common occurrence in many of the 
South Sea islands. In Radack, on account of scarci- 
ty of provisions, no woman is allowed to bring up 
more than three children ; if she has more than this 
number, she is herself obliged to bury them alive ; 
the families of chiefs only are exempted from this 
horrible necessity. Among the warlike inhabitants 
of New Zealand, boys are of course prized more 
highly than girls ; and when mothers have seve- 
ral daughters in succession, they do not hesitate to 
destroy them as soon as they are born. When a 



280 WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 

chief is very ill, it is customary to strangle the infant 
child of some female slave, or inferior person, from 
the idea that it will propitiate the gods. Mr. Mari- 
ner relates an instance of this kind that occurred 
while he was in the Tonga islands. The mother, 
having some forebodings of what was to be done, hid 
her babe. But it was discovered, and carried off by 
some men, who ordered the poor woman to be held 
back by force, to prevent her from following them. 
When the child heard her voice, he began to cry ; 
but when arrived at the place of execution, he was 
so much pleased with the bright band of gnatoo about 
to be tied round his neck, that he looked up and 
laughed with delight. This excited so much pity, 
that even the executioner could not help saying, 
" Poor little innocent !" Two men pulled the cords, 
and the smiling little victim was soon deprived of 
life. In some instances, mothers whose children 
have been thus destroyed have become crazy, and 
never recovered their senses. 

In the Marquesas and Caroline islands, infanticide 
is a thing unknown. Even in New Zealand, and in 
other places where this shocking custom prevails and 
is justified, the children they do rear are cherished 
with the most indulgent tenderness, and no difference 
of treatment is observable toward sons or daughters. 

Mr. Ellis thus describes the conduct of a chief 
named Tetoro, whom he saw at the Bay of Islands 
in 1816 : " Before we set out on our short excursion, 
an incident occurred, which greatly raised my esti- 
mation of Tetoro's character. In the front of the hut 



WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 281 

isat his wife, with two or three children playing 
around her. In passing from the hut to the boat, he 
struck one of the little ones with his foot ; the child 
cried, and though the chief had his mat on, and his 
gun in his hand, and was in the act of stepping into 
the boat, where we were waiting for him, he no soon- 
er heard its cries, than he turned back, took the child 
up in his arms, stroked its little head, dried its tears, 
and giving it to the mother, hastened to join us." 

The unbounded and almost incredible licentious- 
ness that has prevailed in the Sandwich islands and at 
Otaheite, has produced the natural effect of diminish- 
ing parental and maternal love. When it is incon- 
venient to take care of children, there is no hesitation 
about killing them ; if strangers wish to buy, they 
are willing to sell them for a string of beads ; they 
generally pay little attention to their cries or suffer- 
ings ; and if the poor little creatures are very ill, they 
lay them down upon the sands to die. The intro- 
duction of Christianity into these islands is, however, 
gradually producing a better state of things. 

The birth of a son is hailed with the utmost de- 
light. He generally receives the name of some ani- 
mal, river, or island; but sometimes slight incidents 
give rise to a name ; thus a little girl of the Sand- 
wich islands was called Lealea-hoku, or The Star 
Necklace, because she had a necklace made of small 
steel stars, such as European ladies formerly wore 
on their shoes. 

In New Zealand, fathers take the entire care of 
boys from the moment they are weaned. The child 



282 WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 

clasps his little arms about the neck of his parent, 
and remains suspended on his shoulders, covered 
with his mat, during the longest journeys and most 
toilsome occupations. The children are so much 
accustomed to this position, that they sleep with 
perfect security. 

Infants in this part of the world are nursed a long 
time. They are often able to run about and talk, 
before they are weaned. When mothers are busy at 
their work, they lay them down on a clean mat, and 
when necessary to carry them about, they fasten 
them in a sort of satchel at their backs. Little chil- 
dren seldom wear clothing of any kind. In the Mar- 
quesas, every child inherits at least one bread-fruit 
tree from its parents ; for if they have no trees in 
their possession, one is planted as soon as an infant 
is born, that it may have something for future main- 
tenance. The tree is immediately talooed, or forbid- 
den, to every one except the individual for whom it 
is set apart. Even the parents of the child are not 
allowed to eat of the fruit, or to dispose of it. Both 
girls and boys, men and women, hold this species of 
property with perfect security. 

The connections formed in the South Sea islands 
hardly deserve the name of marriage. They take 
place with very little ceremony, and are dissolved 
whenever the husband wishes for a change. A wo- 
man often has five or six husbands in succession, 
without the slightest disparagement to her charac- 
ter ; but whether she continues to like her compa- 
nion or not, she is bound to remain with him till he 



WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 283 

consents to a separation. The first time a daughter 
is married, her parents present a hog, a fowl, or a 
plamain tree, to' their son-in-law, before * is .1 bwa- 
ble for them to eat of his provisions ; but tins is not 
customary when the woman has previously had a 
husband. In some places the lover offers the bride's 
IxusDanu. v articles, the 

father a present ot truit, nsn, or ^. 

value of which depends upon his rank Chieftains 
of the higher classes generally give a ^t on the 
occasion of a daughter's marriage. The bnde is 
loaded with mats of the finest workmanship, anointed 
wHh fragrant oil, and veiled in delicate white gnatoo^ 
The guests wear wreaths of flowers, and floating red 
ribands, resembling silk, made of the fine membrane 
of a tree. When the father gives his daughter to the 
bridegroom, he reminds her that she is now **** 
or belongs solely and sacredly to her husband. The 
entertainment concludes with singing, dancing, and 

T a powerful chief takes a fancy to a girl, he often 
carries her off by force, and in spite of **?»!*#* 
ambitious parents not unfrequently **£** 
daughters in infancy to some man of rank, and the 
infract must afterward be fulfilled ; female captive. 
taken in war are always at the disposal of their con- 
nuerors; but, generally speaking, mutual mclmaUon 
constitutes the sole bond of union in all the islands 

of the Pacific. 

At Nukuhiva it is the custom for every woman _ to 
have two husbands. Some favorite of a girl . father 
becomes her husband, while she is yet very young, 



284 WOMEN OF SOUTH S£A ISLANDS* 

and remains under the paternal roof, until she is con* 
tracted in marriage to another individual. On this 
occasion, the wife and her first companion remove to* 
their new residence, and are both supported by the 
second husband. 

In the other islands, polygamy prevails under the 
more usual form of a plurality of wives. The num- 
ber varies according to circumstances ; the poor sel- 
dom have more than one or two ; the chiefs some- 
times have twelve or fifteen. She who is of the best 
family is the principal wife ; the others are subordi- 
nate to her, and her children take precedence of 
theirs. If the mothers are not noble, the children are 
never so, whatever may be the rank of their father. 

When Mr. Marsden, the missionary, talked with 
some of the New Zealand chiefs concerning the disad- 
vantages of polygamy , they frankly admitted that they 
should have a more quiet life with one wife, for their 
women always quarrelled. The younger wives, par- 
ticularly if they are handsome, often suffer a great 
deal from the tyranny of the older ones ; and if their 
rank be inferior, their situation is sometimes most 
lamentable. All the women, who heard the subject 
discussed, agreed that it would be far better for each 
man to have but one wife. 

Finow, one of the most powerful of the Tonga 
chiefs, hdd a sister, who was a very beautiful and 
lively girl. She talked much about England, and 
had a desire to go there to amass a great quantity of 
beads ; but she said she supposed the papalangi men 
would not marry a girl with such a brown skin, and 



WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 285 

it would be a sad pity to leave so many handsome 
young chiefs in the Tonga islands, for the sake of 
living unmarried in England. She added, laughing, 
" I think the white men must be uncommonly kind, 
good-natured husbands, or else white women must 
have very little spirit ; for if it were not so, they 
could not live so long together without parting. It 
is a very good custom to have but one wife, provided 
the husband loves her ; but if he does not, he will 
only tyrannize over her the more ; and then she has 
not so good a chance to deceive him, as where his 
attention is divided between five or six." 

Notwithstanding the universal practice of polyga- 
my, there are instances of very strong domestic at- 
tachment in the South Sea islands. It is said that 
the infidelity of a husband or wife has often driven 
the other party to suicide. 

Throughout the South Sea islands a woman may 
carry on as many amours as she chooses, without 
incurring any blame, until she is married, and thus 
becomes an article of property ; yet notwithstanding 
this unpropitious course of education, instances of 
misconduct after marriage are said to be by no means 
frequent. 

The king's wives are always guarded by atten- 
dants, who keep a strict watch upon their proceed- 
ings, and whose lives are responsible for a breach of 
trust. 

Where the parties are of high rank, an unfaithful 
wife and her paramour are sometimes both strangled 
and thrown into the sea ; but usually the woman 

VOL. II. 19 



286 WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 

receives a sound beating, and no farther notice is 
taken of the offence. In the Marquesas, if a husband 
have just cause of complaint, he can transfer his wife, 
even against her will, to any man who will take her. 

In some of the islands, men form what is called 
" the bond of friendship" with each other. By this 
bond, individuals are bound to protect and assist each 
other under all circumstances ; and one friend is ex- 
pected to resign his wife to the other, whenever he 
visits his house. 

It is a common practice for women of rank to be 
the adopted mother of some individual for whom their 
husbands entertain great regard. One of the wives 
of Finow performed this office for Mr. Mariner during 
his residence in the Tonga islands, and he owed much 
of his convenience and comfort to her motherly care. 

The women of the Ladrone or Marian islands are 
of a dark yellow complexion. Their teeth are spoil- 
ed by the constant use of betel. They dress modest- 
ly, and wear the hair tied very low, almost in the 
neck. If a man marries a woman whose fortune is 
superior to his, he performs the menial offices of 
household labor ; he cannot dispose of the smallest 
article without her permission ; and should his tem- 
per or habits prove disagreeable, she can leave him, 
carrying with her all the children and property. If 
he detects her in misconduct, he may kill the gallant, 
but has no right to use her ill. Should he, on the 
contrary,- be found guilty of the same fault, his wife 
collects all the women of the neighborhood, who de- 
stroy his garden, his grain, and his dwelling, and beat 
him like so many furies, if they can find him. 



WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 287 

Where the husband and wife possess an equal de- 
gree of property, labor and authority is more equally 
divided. It is not probable that these things are re- 
gulated by laws ; but where women are upheld by 
powerful connections, their husbands are compelled 
to yield to the right of the strongest. According to 
an ancient law, if the father or brother of a young 
woman saved a superior from any imminent danger, 
the latter was required to prove his gratitude by mar- 
rying the girl without any dowry. This law was 
repealed, but by the force of custom it is still gene- 
rally observed. Disputes between the men are de- 
cided by the women ; but female disputes are settled 
by themselves. When champions try their skill in 
single combat, women adjudge the victory, and pre- 
sent the reward, which usually consists of fruit or 
linen. Mourning is worn in the Ladrone islands two 
months for a man, and six months for a woman. 

In the South Sea islands men and women never 
eat together. Women take their food in the same 
huts in which they sleep ; and if any one should 
presume to enter the eating-houses of the men, she 
would be immediately strangled and thrown into the 
sea. Articles of luxury, such as pork, turtle, shark, 
cocoa-nuts, bananas, or plantains, are forbidden to 
women. These rigorous prohibitions are disobeyed 
whenever it can be done secretly. When ships are 
near the shore, the women often swim off to them in 
the night, and indulge their appetites by feasting on 
various forbidden delicacies. Mr. Campbell says 
that he once saw the queen of the Sandwich islands 



288 WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 

herself guilty of this transgression ; but she told him 
her life would be forfeited, should the circumstance 
be discovered. 

On sacred days women are not allowed to enter 
the morai, or temple ; and at such seasons they must 
not go out in a canoe. At the Caroline islands, 
where they have no idols, but offer the first-fruits of 
the earth to invisible gods, men and women present 
their offerings in different temples, and at different 
times, and no man is allowed to be present while the 
women perform their religious ceremonies. 

Riho-Riho, king of the Sandwich islands, at the 
same time that he caused all the idols to be destroy- 
ed, abolished the custom which made it impossible 
for women to eat with their own husbands and fa- 
thers. He invited all the principal chiefs, foreign 
traders, and mercantile agents to a dinner party. 
Two long tables, covered with dainties, were spread 
in an open bower, around which a great multitude 
had assembled. When the company had all taken 
their seats, the king, with considerable agitation, 
seated himself between two of his queens, offered 
them some of the food forbidden to women, and him- 
self ate from the same dish with them. Some fears 
were entertained lest this bold innovation of ancient 
usages should occasion a revolt ; but the temporary 
excitement among the people soon yielded to their 
habitual obedience to the chief. 

In New Hebrides and New Caledonia, the women 
are scarcely treated better than they are in New 
Guinea and New Holland; but, with these excep- 



WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 289 

lions, the condition of Polynesian women is generally 
preferable to that of most savage tribes. The men 
universally take a share, though not always an equal 
one, in laborious occupations. In the Tonga isles 
a considerable degree of respect and delicacy is ma- 
nifested toward women of all classes. It is consi- 
dered rude to take any freedoms without their full 
consent, and they are not required to perform any 
hard labor, or very menial tasks. Traits of gallantry 
and romantic tenderness may be discovered in some 
of their love stories. 

The sovereign power is often inherited by a wo- 
man; and not unfrequently many powerful chiefs 
acknowledge the supremacy of a queen, pay her tri- 
bute, and approach her with all the ceremonials due 
to superior rank. The most distinguished warrior, 
if he have a wife descended from a family more no- 
ble than his own, cannot dispense with certain re- 
spectful forms prescribed by etiquette. The female 
chiefs have as numerous attendants as the men. It 
is the business of these attendants to shade them 
with umbrellas, to carry their fans, pipes, spitting- 
boxes, and kahiles, or feathered staffs with richly or- 
namented handles, borne as an insignia of their rank. 
Within doors they are stationed near them to drive 
away the flies, while they are eating, smoking, or 
sleeping. Mr. Stewart describes Tamehamaru, queen 
of the Sandwich islands, as " a dignified and graceful 
woman, with an unaffected expression of conscious 
and acknowledged rank." When he first saw her, 
she was seated at a long table, with an open writing 



290 WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 

desk before her, receiving tribute from her subjects, 
as they passed along in single file. It is now no un- 
common thing, in the vicinity of missionary stations, 
for chiefs, both male and female, to know how to read 
and write ; and it has even been said that one of the 
princesses has her autobiography in preparation for 
the press. 

A remarkable degree of energy and moral courage 
was evinced by one of the native women, who had 
been a convert to Christianity. There was a large 
burning lake in the island, that frequently sent forth 
volcanic flames. From time immemorial there had 
been a tradition that this place was the residence of 
Pele, the mighty goddess of fire. Priestesses were 
appointed to attend upon this invisible deity, and to 
place food within the crater for her use ; but all ex- 
cept these sacred women were afraid to approach, 
lest they should be instantly devoured. Notwith- 
standing the strength of this popular delusion, a fe- 
male chief descended into the crater, and stirred the 
fiery ashes with a stick, to convince her ignorant 
countrymen that Pele the fire goddess was merely 
an imaginary being, and nothing was to be dreaded 
from her vengeance. 

Besides the acknowledged priestesses, there are 
people of both sexes, who when afflicted with ex- 
treme depression of spirits, without any apparent 
cause, are supposed to be inspired by the gods. 

Women of the South Sea islands are generally 
permitted to speak in their councils, and their advice 
is listened to with respect. Finow murdered his 



WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 291 

brother, and conferred his authority upon his aunt. 
She assembled all the principal people, acknowledged 
her great obligations to her deceased nephew, and 
proposed a rebellion against the government of Fi- 
now. The matter was discussed for a long time, 
when the sister of the female chief who had first 
spoken, rushed into the assembly, armed with a club 
and spear, and exclaimed in a loud voice : " Why do 
ye hesitate so long, when honor so clearly points out 
the proper path to pursue ? If the men have become 
women, the women will be men, and revenge the 
death of their murdered chief ! Then stand and look 
idly on, while women are sacrificed in the glorious 
cause! Perhaps their example may at last excite 
you to die in defence of their rights." This thrilling 
exhortation had the desired effect upon the chieftains. 
In one respect, there is a decided contrast between 
the savages of the South sea and those of North 
America. The North American Indians consider 
voluptuousness a despicable vice ; and in cases of 
seduction, far more blame is attached to the man 
than the woman. The latter is forgiven ; and, un- 
less her conduct is very gross, finds no difficulty in 
subsequently forming a matrimonial connection ; but 
her betrayer is treated with the utmost neglect and 
contempt. It may be questioned, whether Christian 
nations are in this respect so just as the Indians. 
While such severe blame and eternal infamy rests on 
women who have been deceived, it is obviously un- 
just that civilized society should so readily forgive 
the deceiver. 



292 WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 

The most common employment of the South sea 
women is the manufacture of tapa, for garments and 
bed clothes. It is made from the bark of the paper 
mulberry tree, beaten out with a piece of wood groov- 
ed like a crimping machine. It can be bleached per- 
fectly white, and much of it is worn in that state. But 
in general it is stained with a variety of colors extract- 
ed from vegetable productions. The stamps used for 
this purpose are made by the women ; sometimes by 
embroidering leaves with fibres, so as to produ- e a 
raised surface, but more frequently by cutting the pat- 
tern in a piece of bamboo. When tapa is printed in 
this way, it is called gnatoo. In point of beauty it 
compares very well with calico ; but as it cannot be 
washed, a new suit is frequently required. 

Women likewise braid very beautiful mats. Those 
used for sleeping are coarse and strong ; but some of 
them are exceedingly white and delicate, or fancifully 
ornamented with stained grass woven in various pat- 
terns. Mr. Nicholas saw a remarkably elegant and 
highly finished mat, made of flax, by the wife of a 
New Zealand chief, and he was assured that it could 
not be manufactured in less time than two or three 
years. Even queens pride themselves on their skill 
in weaving mats and baskets. The eating-houses, 
being sacred to the use of men, are built entirely by 
men ; but in many of the islands women assist in the 
construction of the dwellings appropriated to com- 
mon use. Sometimes a woman of distinction may 
be seen carrying a heavy stone for the foundation of 
a building, while a stout attendant carries the light 



WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 293 

feathered staff to denote her rank. In some places 
people of noble birth pride themselves on very long 
nails, to show that they perform no labor ; but, gene- 
rally speaking, women of all classes assist in the 
labors of agriculture, and the management of canoes ; 
and when a journey is performed, they often carry 
the baggage. Mr. Marsden, speaking of an expedi- 
tion of about fifty of the natives of New Zealand, says : 
" We were to travel more than a hundred miles, in 
some of the worst paths that can be conceived, and 
to carry provisions for the journey. A chiefs wife 
came with us all the way, and I believe her load 
could not be less than one hundred pounds ; many 
carried much more." 

Females, particularly of the higher class, spend a 
great deal of their time in making ornaments for their 
persons, such as necklaces, finger rings, coronets and 
mantles of feathers. In those islands where there are 
missionaries and other European residents, they are 
learning to make neat hats and bonnets, and garments 
of cotton and silk. These native mantua-makers are 
said to evince great dexterity and skill in their new 
occupation. But with all these various employments, 
the Polynesians, either men or women, seldom work 
more than five hours out of the twenty-four. They 
sleep and lounge half their time, and frolic away a 
good portion of the remainder. They are attracted 
by every new object, and run after it with the eager- 
ness of children. Mrs. Williams, wife of one of the 
missionaries, says : " The best of native girls will, on 
a hot day, take themselves off and swim, just when 



294 WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 

you may be wishing for some one to relieve you ; and 
after this, they will go to sleep for two or three hours. 
The moment a boat arrives, away run men, boys, and 
girls, to the beach. If the mistress censures them, 
they will laugh at her, and tell her she has ' too 
much of the mouth.' " 

Dancing is one of the most common amusements 
in the islands of the South sea. The dances in 
which the women join are generally slow and grace- 
ful, accompanied by a variety of motions with the 
head, body, and limbs. In most of these dances, lit- 
tle attention is paid to decorum. Sometimes forty 
or fifty women dance together in a solid square, 
changing their attitudes every moment ; sometimes 
all squatting down, and then all springing up at the 
same moment. A musician accompanies the dancers, 
who beats a small drum, made of a cocoa-nut shell co- 
vered with shark's skin. The women likewise strike 
pieces of wood or notched reeds together in cadence, 
like the castanets of more civilized nations. In addi- 
tion to this they often wear around their ankles a net- 
work of shells, or dog's teeth, which rattle as they 
dance. 

They have songs descriptive of war, or love, or 
beautiful scenery. These are generally sung alter- 
nately by both sexes, in a sort of recitative. The 
following are extracts from a favorite song among 
the Tonga people : " The women said to us, let us 
repair to the back of the island to contemplate the 
setting sun ; there Let us listen to the warbling of 
birds and the cooing of the wood-pigeon, We will 



WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 295 

gather flowers from the burial place at Matawto, and 
then bathe in the sea, and anoint ourselves in the sun 
with sweet-scented oil, and will weave in garlands 
the flowers gathered at Matawto. Oh, how much 
happier shall we be than when engaged in the weari- 
some and insipid affairs of life ! How troublesome 
are the young men begging for wreaths of flowers, 
while they say in their flattery, * See how charming 
these young girls look coming from Licoo ! How 
beautiful is their skin, diffusing around a fragrance 
like the flowery precipice of Mataloco V " 

It is a common amusement with the women of Po- 
lynesia to throw up five balls in such a manner as to 
keep four perpetually in the air. They are thrown 
with the left hand, and caught with the right. The 
players at the same time chant verses, with the ca- 
dence of which their motions keep perfect time. 
Sometimes seven or eight join together in this re- 
creation. 

Swimming is their favorite diversion, and they 
show an astonishing degree of courage and expert- 
ness in the practice of it. Women will often, for 
mere sport, frolic in places where such a tremendous 
surf breaks on the shore, that the boldest European 
swimmer would not dare to venture within its power. 
If beads, or nails, be thrown into the sea, they will 
dive after them with incredible velocity, and seldom 
fail to bring them up. 

If a shark flakes his appearance when women are 
swimming, it is said the playful water nymphs sur- 
round him, and, if they can once get him into the 



296 WOMEN OF SOUTH SEA ISLANDS. 

surf, fairly drive him on shore ; and even if the mon- 
ster escapes from them, they continue their sport, 
without any apparent fear of danger. 

At great festivals it is not uncommon for the wo- 
men to wrestle together in pairs. Finow, king of 
Tonga, ordered a mock fight, in which fifteen hun- 
dred women were ranged on each side. They gave 
fair hits, without pulling each other's hair, and kept 
up the contest about an hour, without an inch of 
ground being lost by either side. 

In the Radack islands women fight not merely for 
pastime, but in good earnest. They station them- 
selves behind the men, beating drums, and throwing 
stones gathered in baskets for the purpose. When 
the combat is ended, they throw themselves in as 
mediators between the conquerors and the vanquished. 

When a person of superior rank is ill, it is custom- 
ary for his relations to cut off a joint of the little fin- 
ger, as a sacrifice to the gods for his recovery. Even 
little children will quarrel for the honor of laying 
their finger upon a block of wood, and having a joint 
cut off with an axe, or sharp stone. As soon as a 
person dies, the air is rent with the shrieks and la- 
mentations of friends and dependents. The house is 
hung with coarse brown gnatoo striped with black, 
and the mourners, as an indication of wretchedness 
and gloom, wear the most ragged and dirty mats 
they can find. They pluck out the hair, beat their 
faces till they become black and swollen, and disfi- 
gure themselves in a frightful manner with gashes 
made by sharp shells. Very handsome women some- 



times, in the excess of their grief, destroy every vee- 
tige of their beauty. In the Feejee islands, when a 
chief dies, custom requires that his principal wife 
should be strangled and buried with him. Powerful 
friends, by the offer of very valuable gifts, may save 
the widow from this fate ; but in many cases they 
are unable to do it, and in others the victim makes it 
a point of honor to be sacrificed. In the Sandwich 
islands, it was formerly the practice to immolate a 
number of slaves on the grave of the king and queen ; 
but this custom has been abolished by the influence 
of the missionaries. The graves are decorated with 
flowers, and carefully kept in order with smooth 
layers of black and white pebbles gathered from the 
beach. 

Pitcairn's island was peopled by English seamen, 
who having mutinied on board the ship Bounty, 
sought concealment on its distant and rock-bound 
shores. They went to Otaheite to obtain wives, re- 
turned in safety, and for more than twenty years 
remained in complete seclusion from the civilized 
world. It would be difficult for the imagination to 
form a more charming picture, than the description 
of these primitive people given by the first navigators 
who visited them in their peaceful retreat. The 
young people were tall, vigorous, and most beauti- 
fully formed, with countenances expressive of the ut- 
most innocence, frankness, kindness, and good humor. 
The women were exceedingly lovely, and modest 
even to bashfulness. Marriages were performed with 
the utmost solemnity, by John Adams, the old patri- 



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